Tag Archives: drug bust

Sunday Afternoon Thoughts Part 16

In my last post, guest Dick Jones wrote about the demise of newspapers, happening in part because they refuse to let go of their double digit profits. Ad Age has begun a series entitled Newspaper Death Watch. The first installment mentions many of the same problems Dick did. I’ll be following this series and provide a link to each installment. Intriguing stuff.

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Related to the death of newspapers and the huge transition we’re experiencing in news gathering- dissemination (and PR and marketing) is Chris Brogan’s post on Some Differences Between Pitching Mainstream Press and Bloggers. There are some marked differences and, of course, a lot of similarities.

Most revealing are the responses when Chris Twittered his friends for their opinions. Read this in full and think about it. There’s a lot about passion, opinions, homework, freebies . . .oh, yes, and pimping.

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Martin Weller is a Professor of Educational Technology at the Open University in the UK. I’ve subscribed to his blog, The Ed Techie for quite awhile but, like everyone else, I don’t get to all my feeds as often as I’d like.

In the virtual world this April 7 post, Whither the Blogosphere, might be considered old, but it’s relevant, well-written and thoughtful. It’s about the possible trend of bloggers moving away from the blogosphere and into different forms of communication on the Web. Martin writes in part:

What I think is happening is another example of technology succession. The blog was the primary colonizer for the barren landscape of online identity. The presence of this colonizer changed the environment, which made it more amenable to secondary colonizers. . .

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I found this interesting entry on The Ed Techie’s recent post, Making Connections 2.0

Blogger Tony Hirst was criticized harshly at a conference for having his laptop to do some live blogging. Both his account and the comments give some great insights into the schism between traditionalists and 2.0 practitioners.

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John C. Dvorak, VP at the former Podshow, explains the name change to Mevio. His post is short and to the point. The 68 responses range from agreement, to anger to thoughts on the term “podcasting,” branding, search engines, etc. Again, interesting insights into our fast-changing times.

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Finally, I need your insights and ideas.

Three weeks ago I did the three-part post on the drug bust. A week later I followed it up with a report on another one. As I posted them, each one attracted a larger-than-usual number of views. They continued to get a steady but lower number of views, which is the norm. Then, Friday night, views of these posts suddenly jumped way, way up. The views continued growing throughout Saturday, giving me one of my top five days ever. Has this ever happened to anyone else?

Any ideas as to why this seemingly untimely explosion of interest?

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Sunday Afternoon Thoughts Part 14

I couldn’t believe the timing of my drug bust posts with an actual second bust. What are the chances? One of the offshoots of the arrests that I didn’t mention in my last post was that the hits on my bust series doubled. Why? As people did searches for Thursday’s bust news they came upon my three-part series and clicked on them.

Hey, always a silver lining somewhere. . . .

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A big thanks to Ray Ulmer, vice-president for communications at Targetx who, in a post about good podcasting, used Mansfield University as an example, along with my initial goals that I have pretty much lived by.

I was familiar with TargetX but not with Ray’s blog. It’s concise, thoughtful and well-written. I’m a subscriber now.

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Drew McLellan at The Marketing Minute turned me on to Microsoft video that’s making the rounds on YouTube. If you haven’t seen it, you must, along with his commentary.

On his latest post on Web Strategy by Jeremiah, the author lists some new search engines that track conversations about your company or school.

Just as interesting for Web and PR folks are the numerous comments, insights and questions.

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Just a general FYI as I record what I learn as I go, I’m changing the title to Lonely Girl, S*x, Mystery and Web 2.0. to Lonely Girl – the Creation Continues. We’ll see if that staves off the searches of the lonely, horny and perverted searching for something that has nothing to do with my post.

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Two Requests:

1. Our Web folks are getting ready to go live with a new web content management system. PR will be the first. The design is done. I’m looking for sites that have really cool category and content ideas. If you have some favorite sites – even your own—please send me the links.

2. I have to transcribe our podcasts. There are nearly 250, Has anyone used software like Dragon Naturally Speaking? If so, what was your experience? Our IT folks don’t recommend it and say it’s much better just to hire someone to transcribe. They’re probably right but I thought I’d check and see if anyone has used any electronic transcription programs.

Feedback, please!

Not Another Drug Bust!

My three-part drug bust series had been up less than a week when a reporter friend called and said the Attorney General’s Office was holding a news conference on a second bust.  This time they arrested 16 people.  Four former students were involved but no current ones.

The arrests were made as part of the continuing Operation Failing Grade investigation.

As a courtesy the office invited our president, Maravene Loeschke, to attend.  My news director and I rode with her to the state police barracks.  I’ve described in the previous posts the absolute professional way the Attorney General’s office conducts press conferences.

I had some new insights with this one.

The Attorney General, Tom Corbett, a down-to-earth, friendly guy, shook hands with Dr. Loeschke.  “You look a little more relaxed than you did the last time,” he joked.  She agreed. The exchange set a good tone.

We had 20 minutes until the 11 a.m. conference so we were led into a back room with Corbett, the DA and other officials.  An officer offered me coffee and pastries. We talked about the Pennsylvania primaries, sports, and, of course, the drug problem in America.

“Now let me be sure I’m correct that four of those arrested are former students.”  Dr. Loeschke said to Corbett.

“Yes.”

“Would you be kind enough to make that very clear during your presentation?”

Corbett nodded.  “Of course.”

He was good to his word, emphasizing to the room packed full of newspaper and TV folks that four of those arrested were former students, adding that there were no arrests on campus and that drugs are a problem throughout the state.

When he finished, he invited the president to the podium.  She thanked the various law enforcement agencies on their work.  “. . . I don’t think we have a drug problem on campus,” she said.  “We had a drug incident.  The majority of our students come to Mansfield to get away from these things. . . .If (drugs) are on our campus or in any part of our community, we are going to be a part of the partnership to get them out.”

I share this to emphasize that cooperation is the key in PR situations like this.  I’m pretty sure that because our president was up front, candid and cooperative during the first press conference in 2006, she was invited to this one. Because things were handled professionally (and our personal interactions were pretty informal) everyone felt good with each other.

It made this second drug bust conference – like this particular post – an anti-climax.

And that’s a good thing.

Drug Bust! Crisis PR! Part 3

The president called me at 3 p.m. the afternoon of the Attorney General’s press conference on the major drug bust. My news director and I (mainly him) were answering media questions. The president asked me to attend a meeting the students were holding that night.

It was an information session on the bust.

I said I would be there, along with the student affairs person and the provost. Someone said it would be a small gathering.

At 7 p.m. I walked over to the Student Activities meeting room.

At least 100 students sat waiting. They weren’t happy.

The Student Affairs director introduced us and the questions began, directed at me.

First question: “Why did you release the names of the student and all their information?” I was shocked at the students’ naivete.

“We didn’t,” I said. “The police did.”

“ It’s all over the Web.”

“It came from the Attorney General’s Office,” I explained. “When someone is arrested, the information is public.”

Two other students angrily asked me why we were making the students’ names public, making them look guilty before they were tried. The students involved in the bust were composed of black students and white students, but I could see now that this was all about race.

“We have no control over the information,” I said. “It’s provided to the media by the police. Our job is to answer questions we’re legally allowed to. No more, no less.”

There were more questions, then this: “Are drugs a big problem on campus?”

“I don’t think so,” I said. “In this case we had a minority of students that made it look bad for a lot of students.”

A sudden buzz among the audience began growing. It was dark and angry and getting angrier. I realized that they had picked up on the word “minority” and turned it into a slam against the minority population.

The grumble became a low roar. Just before it swelled out of control the Student Affairs director stepped up to the mic and told them to calm down and show respect. Slowly the noise subsided. I was amazed.

And thankful.

The provost, to my great relief, jumped in and translated what I had said and took it from there.

The meeting ended quietly. I’m not sure the students ever understood that the PR Department didn’t release the students’ names. They left, a little more educated but still upset.

Bottom line?

Dealing with reporters is easy. We’ve got a major drug bust. It’s public.

Let’s get it done.

The secret is that you’re not on opposite sides. You’re dealing with a big story. For reporters and PR the end is the same: Headlines today. A new story tomorrow.

Students, I found out, are in a gray area in which emotion trumps the law. They are also subject to the influence of friends, faculty and staff.

At the end of a 16-hour-day, it was the students who were on my mind—the angry, the confused, and yes, the arrested.

Drug Bust! Crisis PR! Part 2

When the drug bust press conference was over, Terry, my news director, President Loeschke and I walked outside. It was a sunny, warm November day. I saw a female TV reporter who was my intern years ago. I gave her a hug and we talked about the more innocent days when she was a student.

The Attorney General’s office arranged to march the students out, slowly, one-by-one, past for the media. As a PR professional, I admired their skill.

They had thought of every detail.

So did our president. “Where will the students be coming out?” She asked.

“Over there,” Terry said, pointing to a side door. “The police are going to escort them down this way, then turn left and into the vehicles.”

She nodded. “Then I want to stand right there.” She walked to a spot where the students would be coming around a curve. “I want to be here where they will have to face me and see how incredibly disappointed I am.”

I’ve been in the news and PR business for 30 years and thought I was I was pretty hardened. But a shiver went up my spine. This woman had been president of MU for only five months and here she was handling a drug bust press conference as presidential and human as a person can be.

She had gone on camera thanking the Attorney General’s Office for its fine work , reiterating that our university does not tolerate drugs. And now she was personalizing it. Hers was the last face each student would see before entering the police vehicle.

The students began passing by. A couple glanced at her and looked away. One student made jokes. The rest saw her and looked down in shame and humiliation.

On the PR side, the moment made for some hard-hitting photos. What parent couldn’t relate to this woman, alone, arms folded, watching one of her students, his head down, being led to jail?

She stood for higher education, leadership and values, and they had let her down. They had let the university down.

It was classic.

Dr. Loescke’s response – going on camera and thanking the Attorney General’s office, her insistence on placing herself in a strategic position to face the students and force them to face themselves – turned a negative moment into something universal, positive, and most importantly, human.

We drove back to campus. The afternoon was spent answering media questions and I thought at the end of the day it was over.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

More in Part 3.

Drug Bust! Crisis PR! Part 1

At 8 a.m. November 1, 2006, the Attorney General’s Office called our president, Maravene Loeschke, to inform her that they were holding a press conference announcing a major drug bust at Mansfield University.

She was, of course, invited.

The president called Terry, my news director. “I want to be there,” she said. “I want you and Dennis to pick me up at 10:30.”

I’ve been in the business a long time. Most presidents do not want to be part of a press conference about a drug bust on their campus. Actually, most PR people don’t, either.

We drove up to the state police barracks. I soon found out that when the Attorney General’s office does a long investigation which concludes in the arrest of a whole batch of drug dealing students, they want the taxpayers and general public to know about it.

They had displays of evidence, photos and press kits. The 16-month investigation was called “Operation Failing Grade.” The Attorney General’s Office had a dark sense of humor.

Mansfield University is located in north central Pennsylvania. Reporters from a 100-mile radius attended.

As a seasoned PR person, I watched in awe the precision with which the conference was conducted. A rep from the Attorney General’s office spoke about the investigation, the undercover agents, and purchasing $17,000 worth of cocaine, marijuana and Oxy-Contin. The DA spoke.

There were hand-outs, visuals, and each presentation was short, dynamic and to the point. You don’t just whip a production like this together . It takes work.

I’ve known presidents who would run to the other side of the state to avoid being part of an announcement like this. Others would simply send their PR guys to the front line. The Attorney General’s rep asked Dr. Loeschke just before the conference if she wanted to speak.

She nodded: “Absolutely.”

When her turn came, President Loeschke stepped up to the mic and spoke in an even, firm voice. “I want to thank the Attorney General’s office, the state police and the District Attorney’s office for all their work,” she said. She went on to say that these students were not representative of the whole student body and that the administration is committed to a drug-free, safe campus.

Now, I agree that Dr. Loeschke’s background didn’t hurt. She spent years as an actress and an acting professor. She also did impromptu.

And in this very difficult moment she was excellent. She was firm, confident, everything a leader should be in a moment like this.

But what she did next took me totally by surprise.

I’ll tell you about it in the next post.