Category Archives: media

Alec Baldwin’s “Here’s the Thing” Full of Interviewer Tips

Alec Baldwin’s podcast, “Here’s the Thing,” is one of the best interview series out there.  I’m just fascinated with the guy who provides a blueprint of a well-done interview and here’s why.

1.  He comes to the studio absolutely prepared for the guest.  If it’s a show business colleague, he probably knows the person but still has done his research on the guest’s work.  Often, as in the case of Dick Cavett, he says, “I’ve seen all your shows,” and then references several.  Because of that, they have a good talk about Sir Lawrence Olivier, an extended chat about  Marlon Brando with insights you’d get nowhere else.

2.  He relates to the guest.  Again, with Dick Cavett, they talk about working while enduring emotional issues and then talk about Cavett’s  period of depression.

3. Baldwin is honest.  When talking with Jerry Seinfeld, he asks, with mild disbelief,  “You’ve never been short with a person?   Seinfeld says no, never, and Baldwin says with naked winsomeness, “I wish I could say the same thing.”  It’s a reference to his famous temper but the comment is real and heartfelt, and we have brief glimpse into his own life and regrets.

4.  He’s funny.  He interviews novelist Erica Jong and her writer daughter.  The two are close but have different views of life and are headstrong.  In one segment when they begin arguing about feminist issues, Badwin breaks in at the perfect moment shouting “We’re going to a commercial break brought to you by Victoria’s Secret!”

5.  He’s passionate.  At times, he wants to know something so badly he talks over the guest and drives in his question, forcing the guest to new and often uncharted territory.  He does this several times with Julie Andrews, who at times reveals her devotion to her family, her vaudeville roots, her rebellion against her Mary Poppins image, and, at times, her polite insistence on finishing her thought.

6.  He’s modest.  At different times guests will refer to Baldwin’s acting skills.  Baldwin brushes them aside with a polite thank you and returns to his  questions.  He’s not there for himself .  He’s focused on the guest.

7.  In every interview he seems to get to a core truth of the artist.    Musician Herb Alpert says at one point, “There’s something about being an artist. . . . When you’re doing it you’re in the exact moment of your life.”

8.  He’s passionate about getting to the root of the person’s ambition.  In his interviews with  Brian Williams ( March 4, 2013) , they talk about Williams’  early years, his drive, living in poverty and eating Spam sandwiches.  But he also gets to the person’s true loves, as well.  Williams spends more time talking about his wife and raving about his daughter than he does interviewing several presidents.

This interview is  fascinating  in retrospect because Williams does reference his “experience” in being in a Chinook helicopter that was hit by two rockets and small arms fire in Iraq in 2003,  which has gotten him into trouble, but throughout the interview he comes across as a down-to-earth, hard working professional devoted to his profession and his craft.   You can’t dismiss his sincerity and humility.

9. Baldwin uses whatever he can to show that he can relate to the interviewee.  In some cases, it’s similar childhoods, sometimes raising a daughter.  With Billy Joel they compare their respective high profile divorces from beautiful women.

In all the interviews Baldwin  is knowledgeable, passionate, and in pursuit of what makes the artist, journalist, writer, policy maker, tick.

He’s always after what makes that person that person.

10. What really cemented my respect was Baldwin’s interview with  policing experts Joe Eterno and David Kennedy.  Baldwin’s knowledge and passion are present but he rightly steps back and  lets the men talk.  They are two of the best interviews I’ve ever heard on the subject of 21st century policing, human rights, the Constitution and the relationship of police and community.

Baldwin  combines  research,  talent, curiosity and passion. Each show  is  lively, honest, entertaining and bursting with revelations and insights — about the interviewee and occasionally the interviewer.

I’d love to interview him sometime about his technique.

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Billboards: The Good, The Bad & the Sales Reps

I’ve used billboards for our institution for about 25 years.  They’re effective if the message is simple in a dynamic design.  But there are many other things to consider, which I know from good and bad experience.

Do not buy a board unless you know these things:

Its location.  If it’s on the left side of the road you’re traveling, it’s probably a waste.  It’s too far away from the traveler, and most of us don’t look to the left when driving unless we’re quick-checking scenery.

If it’s on the right and too far away, it will be glanced at and not processed.

Even with a board in a good location on a highway, you’re traveling 55-65  miles an hour.  You have 4-6 seconds to see and process it.  The image has to be grabbing and the message has to be brief and dynamic.

If you have too many words it won’t be read at all (a standard rule for anything but really important for billboards).

Do not give complete faith to billboard sales reps.  They’re under pressure to fill the blank space. A sales rep I’ve dealt with for years  pushed a board on an interstate. Great deal.   I asked him to send me a photo of it.  He did.  It appeared to be close to the right side of the highway with a long visual reach.

I bought it.  My graphic artist created a dynamic design.

A colleague drove by and took a picture of it.  Turns out it was actually down over a bank and was visible for a second or two.  The company photographer had walked down the bank and taken a picture of it, making it look like it was next to the highway.

It also turned out that  our president also saw it and was outraged at the rip-off.  My credibility with him was damaged.

My rep claimed he knew nothing about how it was presented to us.

A second board was presented in the same way.  It was smaller but closer to the road.  The problem: the board was behind a small hill and what appeared to have a seven second view was actually about two seconds.

For the most part, sales reps are not trustworthy.  Boards in prime locations go for top dollar.  If a rep tells you he can give you a good deal on a board, it’s because it’s in a bad location and not selling well.

The reps are under pressure to keep the board filled just as radio and TV needs to fill “inventory” and web sites need to sell “real estate” or whatever the latest term is.

With billboards, you need to scout the location yourself if possible.  If you’re doing something out of your area, you need a guarantee that the board is in a good location, and I don’t know how you do this.  We bought a board out of the area where the rep figured we would never see it.  It just happened that an employee was a native of that area and drove by it.  The board  was in a field so far away that the message was barely visible.

For billboards, the message and design is your responsibility.  The rest is up to the reps and with them I give a nod to the X Files:

Trust No One.

 

Huge Shift in PR Speed, Responsibility & Accountability

In the previous post, I outlined our strategy for the president’s announcement about possible changes on campus.

Shortly after our announcement, a faculty member friend expressed concern about announcing the news on social media, feeling that the news was detrimental to the university.  She appreciated the administration’s transparency but felt we should be more cautious in what we “share with the outside world.”

Her concern is  legitimate.  In the mad rush of last minute rewrites to hit a 10 a.m. deadline we inadvertently posted the president’s letter to the campus community on our News site  instead of  the news release.  But the release exactly reflected the letter.  The information was the same.  But there was, to some,  the perception of sharing inside information.

I told my colleague  that in today’s  social media driven world, as soon as someone says something, whether it’s true or false,  it becomes public. People share and comment on it, spreading it whether it’s true or false.

As a PR department, we do have a need to be truthful, accountable and swift.

So it’s crucial to get the the institutional announcement out as quickly as possible.  In doing this, we own the news on this matter; we are the originators.

This was reinforced  when a reporter with a local daily tweeted our news with a link to our announcement.   The reporter had to do no work at all.  This is an ongoing, major  shift in journalism.

Gone is the the buffer of “according to PR spokesperson. . . .”  The reporter simply links our story — the source.

We are no longer PR Departments .  We are multimedia production agencies, creating news stories and distributing them to the understaffed journalism profession quickly and truthfully.

This is a huge responsibility.

More on this in the next post.

If you missed my previous post, check it out to see how we successfully minimized the sting of our announcement about possible campus changes.

Using Social Media to Ease Bad News

Last week our university released some not-so-positive news.

We didn’t have to.  We took a pro-active stance and put it out there.  Thankfully, we have a president who believes in being out front with everything possible.

My news director, campus technologies/social media person and I work very closely together, as these offices should on every campus.  Before we posted the news, I called the social media person.  “Do we have an upbeat story we can post right after our initial news?”

“Sure.”

He pulled a five-minute video of our new suite-style residence halls that we had produced for a TV show. He posted the first story on Facebook, which, like it or not, is one of our primary news channels.  A few minutes later he posted the res hall story which sat above the “bad news” story.

The initial news story was seen by 3,838 people, had five likes, one share and no comments.

The res hall story was seen by 8,620 people, earned 142 likes, 30 shares and 22 comments, all wildly positive.  They ranged from a proud mother who was sending her son here and couldn’t wait for him to live in the new dorm, to many nostalgic posts from alumni remembering their days in the old dorms.

Lessons:

1.  When you have news that’s not sugar sweet, be quick, proactive and assure the public know you’re an honest news organization.

2.  Have something else ready to soften the blow and post it in concert with the other news.

PS:  I did get a question from a faculty member on why we posted the initial story, essentially sharing it with everyone on Facebook and Twitter.  I’ll share her concern and my answer in the next post.

“Disrupted” Author Gives Advice on iGen Marketing

My last post was a review of Disrupted, which I  like a lot. So does my president. He told his cabinet members to read it. At a recent conference of college presidents, he recommended it to his colleagues.

I’ve recommended to everyone in the business.
I sought out author Stefan Pollack to do a Huffington Post piece about it. You can check out the full article there or just cut to our question/answer session below. Stefan kindly indulged me last week while he was on vacation.

Five questions about his findings and the future of marketing/advertising.
1. Why have you labeled people born after 1994 the “iGen generation?
Until now, most circles have labeled this generation Z, but based upon my observations there is enough of a generation gap between Y and this generation, that they needed a proper title. iGen describes quite a bit in just a few letters: they are inherently mobile, they value individuality, they are unique compared to the working generations of Y, Z and Boomers. The name also implicitly nods to Apple’s iPhone and iPad, which, among other forces, helped instigate the great communications disruption of the last decade, empowering this generation to lead brands into a consumer-controlled environment.
2. How large is the disruption created by this new consumer generation?
To be clear, while iGen has certainly created a disruption in the marketing world, the reality is they are natives of a post-disrupted environment. They don’t know a world apart from this intuitively mobile and consumer-driven one in which we currently live. iGen grew up knowing they have the entirety of human knowledge on small devices in their pockets. The consequences are staggering. Never before could a generation completely and totally omit a brand from their consumer decision-making process—they can find out anything and everything without consuming one iota of traditional media or brand-controlled messaging. This is probably the largest disruption our industry has ever witnessed.
3. What do companies and colleges need to do to communicate with these consumers?
The most important thing brands can do is listen. Identify the target audience and listen to them, learn their behaviors, their wants and needs, and deduce how a brand or message can coexist or nurture that lifestyle—then a brand or message will be relevant to iGen. Additionally, companies can identify influencers that iGen already listens to and capture their attention with a message, however they will concede control of the message once the influencer becomes an advocate.
4. What do we need to keep them?
Simple: be transparent, authentic, and honest. iGen and digital natives are the bloodhounds of consumers—they can spot disingenuous marketing long before it reaches them. However, once a brand or idea is embraced by iGen, they become fearless advocates and behave as influencers in their vast networks.
5. What will advertising and marketing look like in five years?
At the velocity of current trends, advertising and marketing will need to adapt to correct for the massive ad-avoidance rates. Now that people are mobile, their attention is moving from TV and print to their devices. Mobile marketing will continue to be a leading force in the industry, but it will need to be targeted—both demographically and geographically. Specific niches, such as video and music streaming, augmented reality, and location-based promotions, have tremendous potential for success. iGen is not adverse to marketing or advertising as long as it is relevant and authentic. The days of sandblasting a controlled message and hoping that enough of it sticks are over. Marketers must be accurate with their analysis of target audiences and use only tools that appeal to them.

“Disrupted” Should Shake You, Wake You

For years, as a PR professional, I’ve been trying to figure out how to get to high school and college students. I imagined them surrounded by a bubble I couldn’t pierce.
Stefan Pollack explains this generation’s communications world in Disrupted. It’s clear, direct and commendably presents his findings without offering “easy”  answers.
The iGen generation, as he labels it, has created the biggest shakeup in communications in generations. The iGens are those born after 1994 who have never known a world without computers,  parents without mobile devices, and who want their information now and know how to get it instantly.
If it takes more than an instant, it’s too long.
They don’t need to memorize old facts because they curate.
Pollack credits Apple for changing the way we communicate through the introduction of the iPod, which revolutionized the way we buy music and ushered the downfall of record stores, iPhone, and the iPad which signaled the downfall of desktops and laptops. He doesn’t give enough credit to the almost simultaneous appearance of Google, Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, and Netflix, which share in the apocalyptic shift in the way we buy, read, listen, communicate and overthrow countries.
This is a minor complaint. Pollack is right. The revolution has happened.
iGen was born into the technology and with unwitting naturalness changed all the rules overnight.
Radio ruled for decades, dictating music we should listen to, infested by commercials. TV fed us nightly shows interrupted by commercials. Newspapers and magazines created cover and inside stories dotted by ads. The book industry told us what we should read. Period.
All are now in death gasps.
The traditional media, gatekeepers of news and scripting what’s important, are gone. iGens, now their own gatekeepers, allow in what’s relevant to them. If they accept it, they share it with their friends, the “infinite touch points.”
If they find you relevant and approve, you may succeed.

If they find you irrelevant, or worse, dishonest, they can injure or even destroy you by simply and instantly spreading the word.
Blasting ads at this generation is a waste of time and money. Relevance and interactivity is the only way to communicate.
And they want humor.
Over the past couple months I’ve found myself recommending Disrupted to members of various boards that I’m on, to my university president, to colleagues. All of us in the marketing world know traditional media is dead to those under 50. Disrupted presents its findings and explains how iGen is  communicating and if you don’t get on board – not just with the social media but understanding the way they’re  thinking, seeing the world and acting in it – you are a historical footnote.
At lunch recently, I ran these ideas past a 17-year-old female songwriter who’s going to college to major in philosophy. She nodded in agreement and added: “I Google things I’m interested in so I’ll get Google and Facebook ads about them.”
Read that sentence until it sinks in. They don’t complain about advertising. They invite brands that interest them.
And Brand, once you’re in, you’d better be real, relevant, transparent, have a sense of humor and a social conscience.
Disrupted passed the iGen test.  It’s the Bible for today’s marketing.

Mansfield U Zombie Byte Goes International

Recap: I interviewed World War Z author Max Brooks when he visited Mansfield University  in November 2012.  Down-to-earth, direct and  honest, Brooks is an interviewer’s dream.

I had read the book in preparation and knew from hints in the pop culture press,  that the movie would generate international buzz.

I’ve described in the first two posts how we did two half hour TV shows, then pulled a five minute clip in which Brooks talked about how much the movie has in common with his book (none).

We posted the two full interviews.  In May, the Vanity Fair cover story on Brad Pitt and the movie World War Z hit the stands.   That was the opening shot of the international publicity and promotion for the movie.

That’s when we released the five minute clip.  Numerous bloggers and sites, including Fandango, linked our video and posted blogs based on their interpretation of the interview.

I talked in the last post about the mistake I made which probably cost me several thousand views.

Now for the bit of luck I had which gained us several thousand views.  That  came in June, when Brooks declined to talk with mainstream media.

That left them no choice but to reference the Mansfield University video interview for information.

Two of the biggest media outlets –the Associated Press and Yahoo News —  did articles on the movie and the book, using the Mansfield University interview as a source of information.
Both of these articles appeared on the same day, boosting the views of our video  by over 1,000 in 12 hours.

Higher Ed communications guru Dick Jones explained the implications of this.

“The fact that the Max Brooks interview at Mansfield University was referenced by Yahoo and The Associated Press resulted in worldwide media attention for the school,” Dick said.  “That’s because Yahoo and AP are important third-party indicators of quality to media outlets and individual news consumers everywhere.  If AP and Yahoo run with a story, then editors and news directors at all media outlets will view it in a much more favorable light and are much more likely to run it.  And so it proved with this story.  Once given that seal of approval by AP and Yahoo, there was no stopping this one.”

He added that there are a handful of traditionally credible news sources.  “The AP is right at the top.  Yahoo, while much newer, has great clout also due to its platform as the default news provider for millions of individuals.”

Dick concluded by saying, “One take-away from this project has been the affirmation that for AP and Yahoo—and by inference for many other media outlets—YouTube interviews are a credible on-the-record source for journalists today—given equal value with original reporting.”

The other take away is that while the media has changed, the core values of good reporting, honest interviews and solid facts, remain of utmost importance.