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The Flack

This weblog attempts to shine a brighter light on the subtle role public relations plays in politics, popular culture, journalism, business/finance, entertainment, technology, social media, consumer marketing and sports.

Last Build Date: Mon, 05 Mar 2018 08:22:16 PST


The Flack Has Moved

Thu, 13 Mar 2014 11:49:12 PDT

Maybe it was the recent quip from my pal Todd Defren who called me "the last man standing on Blogspot." (Todd, I was also one of the first.)  Still, he got me thinking.  It's time to move on.  

I considered Tumblr, but decided, after nearly nine years on the Blogger platform, to have The Flack reside within the newly re-vamped Flatiron Communications LLC website on WordPress.

The link is here:  

In a week or so, all visitors to this site will be redirected.

Thanks for the support. Hopefully, we'll see you over at Flatiron.

Peter  (image)

The PR Quiz 4.0

Thu, 13 Mar 2014 11:11:01 PDT

Last week I had the good fortune to attend a lunch at the buzzworthy ABC Kitchen down the street from my old employer Burson-Marsteller. Our host, AirPR's Rebekah Iliff, raised the issue of the lack of technology literacy in the communications industries before this eclectic gathering of PR execs, the founder of a fashion/tech startup and an editor from Entrepreneur magazine. I suggested that she consider developing a survey to back up the assertion that a vast majority of communications pros simply lack the tech skills to flourish in the new world order.  I then mentioned the questionnaire I developed and administered to prospective agency hires as one way to assess their fluency in the daily doings of our industry.It's been several years since the last quiz, i.e., light years in terms of the communications biz, so I thought it was time for a refresh. The answers are now posted here.The PR Quiz v 4.0Q1) Rank the following in order of their number of unique visitors per month: ___ ___ ___ Buzzfeed ___ Huffington Post ___ Yahoo! News  Q2) Which company did Facebook NOT purchase in the last year?________________________ What's App Branch Titan Aerospace Sportstream AOL PatchQ3) Match the following journalists with their PREVIOUS and CURRENT places of work (from the list below):___previous____Brian Stelter_______current____________________Tina Brown_________________________________Vivian Schiller________________________________Peter Kafka__________________________________Peter Lauria_________________________________Jessica Lessin________________________________Bill Keller___________________________________Howard Kurtz________________________________Ben Smith___________________________________Kara Swisher___________________The Wall Street JournalNBC NewsThe New York TimesThe Daily BeastMarshall ProjectThe InformationReutersCNNRe/codePoliticoBuzzfeedTwitterFacebookFox News ChannelTBDQ4) Fill-in the cities where the following media outlets are based:KGO-TV _____________________________________Herald-StatesmanThe Guardian ____________________________InquirerKCBS Radio ____________________________Tribune_______________Globe & MailNY1News _________________The Wrap _________________Politico _________________Mediaite _________________The Daily Show _______________Q5) Which countries do the following TV networks call home?NHK ________________BBC ________________ TF1 _________________CCTV _______________RAI __________________RT __________________CBC _________________HBO _________________Globo ________________Q6) Rank the following by number of users:___Facebook___Pinterest___WhatsApp___Twitter___Google+___LinkedIn___SnapchatQ7) In which social media channels do "selfies" typically reside (and propagate)? _______________________________________________________________Q8) Name three companies that epitomize the "collaborative economy:"________________________________________________________________________Q9) Name the owner of these Twitter handles:@sarahcuda ________________@jack ______________________@carr2n ___________________@TheEllenShow______________@finkd______________________@nicknotned___________________@jennydeluxe__________________@pmarca ______________________@fivethirtyeight_________________@peretti _____________________Q10) Which of the following news organizations (from the list below) are NOT using "native advertising" or "sponsored content?"_____________________      _____________________        __________________________Atlantic MonthlyMashableBuzzfeedThe New York TimesAssociated PressForbesNPRWashington PostThe EconomistTIME Inc.  Q11) What does this do? ___________________________________________________Q12) What do you know about the following news sites/orgs/apps?Re/code _______________________________________________________________________The Information _____________________________________________[...]

All Press Required To Stay Strictly On Message

Wed, 26 Feb 2014 13:28:48 PST

Ronan Farrow, no stranger to controversy, is slated to receive a journalism award named for one of the icons of the profession: "The Cronkite Award for Excellence in Exploration and Journalism." The fact that this 26-year-old already has garnered an award for a relatively slim body of work is questionable enough, but there's one even bigger catch. The host organization's PR consiglieres have demanded that those seeking press credentials to cover the event physically must sign a document in which they agree to refrain from asking any "off-topic" questions.  "The theme of the evening is global education and service,” it says. “All press are required to stay strictly on message. Any press who ask guests or Mr. Farrow about off-message topics will be immediately escorted out of the event."In today's New York Post "Page Six" story, a rep from event's host organization further explained "We would like you to sign the form or indicate by return e-mail that you understand our goals to stay completely on message given the surrounding circumstances. We will not tolerate press questions about personal or family affairs related to Mr. Farrow in any circumstance at this event. Farrow is not doing interviews and the rules come from his team direct to you."In the world of celebrity, from which Mr. Farrow was spawned, it is not uncommon for publicists to place interview restrictions on reporters or talk show hosts in exchange for access to their in-demand clients. The heavy-handed approach also extends to politics, as recently noted in reports that Vanity Fair contributor Michael Lewis allegedly allowed the White House to approve its quotes for a piece he penned for the Condé Nast glossy.I mean this is how PR pros earn their keep, right? I guess. But it always strikes me as short-sighted, if not plain dumb, to place blanket limits on a profession that bristles at the very notion of being manipulated. (Rather, Mr. Farrow might be better advised to personally deflect any uncomfortable questions.) No one knew this more than Mr. Cronkite who'd clearly resent any PR plan to stifle the very profession for which he set a very high standard of practice.UPDATE: Farrow and event organizers disavow their role in placing restrictions on the press: "Well, not so fast. A spokesperson for Farrow is denying all of this. In a statement given to Gawker's J.K. Trotter, a rep for Farrow said, "Ronan and his team did not request any restrictions on reporters’ questions.” Trotter further reports that a "source at MSNBC added that the 'tip sheet' was created and distributed, without Farrow’s knowledge, by a 3rd-party public relations firm hired by the ceremony’s organizers." Furthermore, Heather Halstead, executive director of Reach the World, confirmed that statement, telling HuffPost’s Michael Calderone that the nonprofit -- and not Farrow or his staff -- came up with the stipulations for press coverage." [...]

Under Armour's Fashion Faux Pas

Fri, 14 Feb 2014 05:46:57 PST

Polo Ralph Lauren for Team USA (Photo: Getty) Love it or hate it, Polo Ralph Lauren's Team USA Olympics apparel didn't have to do much to gain fans. Its "Made in America" label alone thrust the company over the finish line for the gold, especially in comparison to the scandal-plagued Made in China suits Team USA wore last Olympics go-round. As Huffington Post reports in its piece "Olympic Team U.S.A's 'Ugly Christmas Sweaters' Sell Out Immediately Online:" "Despite the mixed reviews, the $595 sweaters and matching $195 pants have already sold out on Ralph Lauren’s website. For those yearning to wrap their bodies in the chunky knit, however, a select few are selling on Ebay for prices as steep as $3,000." Still, the USOC didn't learn from past mistakes. Its fundraising mittens are still made in China. Dream Teamer Charles BarkleyFew can argue with the reputational value this (increasing rare) kind of global exposure can offer a fashion designer. I won't forget working with Reebok on its Olympics apparel sponsorship. (Remember Dan n Dave?) I suppose it was Olympics Dream Teamer Charles Barkley who eloquently summed up his refusal to wear the Reebok-made warm-up suits at the time. I paraphrase: "I've got two million reasons not to wear Reebok" (referring, of course, to the lucrative deal he has with his primary sponsor).The sports apparel companies are eager to prove their medal. This year, Under Armour apeared to have the gold all sewn up through some of the best PR money could buy. It was outfitting the men and women speedskaters in specially-designed suits that had dimples for better aerodynamics. On Christmas eve, the Washington Post quoted one athlete: "'This is the fastest speedskating suit ever made, and it will be the fastest speedskating suit, period,'” said U.S. Olympic hopeful Patrick Meek of a suit being designed by Baltimore company Under Armour and Lockheed Martin."U.S. Olympic Speedskater Shani Davis In Under Armour Suit (Photo: Reuters) Without warning, the company now finds itself in a most uncomfortable position. The Wall Street Journal and others are reporting that the U.S. athletes' unexpected poor showing (7th place as best U.S. finish) could be due to a design flaw in the new suit. In its piece "Sochi Olympics: Under Armour Suits May Be a Factor in U.S. Speedskating's Struggles," The Journal writes: "According to three people familiar with the U.S. team, these suits—which were designed by apparel sponsor Under Armour and billed before the Games as a major advantage—have a design flaw that may be slowing the skaters down. These people said that vents on back of the suit, designed to allow heat to escape, are allowing air to enter the suit and create drag that keeps the skaters from staying in the "low" position they need to achieve maximum speed. One skater said team members felt they were fighting the suit to maintain correct form."Yikes. To its credit, Under Armour quickly made a fix to the alleged flaw, but the damage may already have been done. Frankly, I'm not sure this will have a lasting negative affect on Under Armour's excellent reputation. Like "Dan n Dave" for which Reebok invested heavily in a marketing campaign to trumpet the pair of Olympic decathletes -- until Dan didn't make the team -- this may just end up being one big (and very costly) missed PR opportunity. [...]

From Climate to Climax at The NY Tech Meetup

Tue, 11 Feb 2014 11:06:18 PST

Will the New York Tech Meetup ever not sell-out its monthly showcase of tech startups? Judging from the full house that braved the frigid February New York weather, the answer is a resounding no. The NYC tech scene is simply too robust to forego the premier startup showcase event here. Also, it doesn't hurt that the New York Tech Meetup, with its 36,500 members, is the largest of the 142,000+ groups in's vast universe.If there was a single theme that emerged from the event last week, it likely had to do with Olivia Newton John's signature song. App and software-related innovation gave way to the Internet of things -- with an emphasis on things.Among the hardware on display were Birdi, a crowd-funded "smart air" monitoring device that somehow escaped any questions about how it hopes to compete with Google's latest and much-hyped acquisition Nest. I suppose there's room enough for more than one player in the wired home arena (though perhaps not in the branded aviary space). Still, Birdi did appear to offer a bit more functionality than Nest.We were then treated to another tech-driven physical product that took the form of a soccer ball, but not just any soccer ball. Uncharted Play, a "for-profit enterprise," impressed the audience with the simplicity of its invention Soccket that doubled as an energy source.Uncharted Play's SoccketThe more you kick the ball around, the more energy it gathered. Plug a custom lamp into the soccer ball's built-in USB port, and voila, the gift of light is bestowed upon remote communities that need it. Here's a video clip that explains.Radiator LabsNext up was a company whose primary audience lacked neither light nor heat. Crowd-funded Radiator Labs' co-founder Marshall Cox opened by asking the audience of predominantly NYC apartment dwellers how many have awoken in the middle of the night in a deep sweat as a result of an over-active l̶i̶b̶i̶d̶o̶ ̶ radiator? Some 750 of the 800 people seated in NYU's Skirball Auditorium must have raised their hands.Smartly, Marshall and his colleagues identified a problem and the exact audience for which its solution would strike a resonant chord. They constructed a custom, pliable radiator cover with built-in fans that regulates the spiky blasts of heat that cause so much misery. Birdi and Radiator Labs have taken decidedly different paths in addressing home climate control.Outside of the physical realm, I was captivated by Capti Narrator, which converts to audio any digital text you might stumble upon traversing the media ecosystem. While Capti's didn't custom-build its text-to-audio conversion technology, the software worked across an impressive range of file types.Also, for varying fees, it allows you to choose the specific voice that would read your selected passage. Following the meetup, I told New York Angel founder David Rose that this was one of the demos I enjoyed. He observed that the underlying technology was not all that pathbreaking. Even so, Capti Narrator offers me an attractive solution to the challenge of reading my iPhone while on the elliptical every morning. It's clearly better that that annoying Flo from Progressive who never ceases to pollute my music play lists. Snapchat ushered in an era where short-lived communiques captured the imagination of tens of millions of users (Mr. Zuckerberg among them). Now, Confide wants to do for email what Snapchat did for messaging and images - make them quickly disappear after they're read. Just think: SAC Capital's Mathew Martoma might be a free man today if he used Confide to share his insider trading tips. Just kidding, of course.  I'm sure there are many other legal business use-cases that would benefit by having their emails disappear "off-the-record."ThinkUp's Gina Trapani & Anil DashI had seen Anil Dash and Gina Trapani milling about the auditorium before the show got underway. These two pioneering bloggers and technologists took the stage [...]

A Paper-less Facebook?

Mon, 03 Feb 2014 14:30:11 PST

Everyone's favorite multi-purpose social network last week released a "reader" for iOS devices that many are saying will eventually replace the company's seminal newsfeed. It is simply called Paper, and allows the user to meld a handful of topics he or she wishes to follow, i.e., technology, enterprise, pop culture, into one's newsfeed. ReadWrite's headline touted the new app: "Facebook 'Paper' App Attempts To Reimagine How You Read The News: Facebook wants to recreate your news feed with a beautiful news app."The app uses both vertical and horizontal finger swipes to navigate within a story and from story to story, topic to topic. I'm still trying to figure out where the sharing functions reside, but suffice to say, I like the interface better than Facebook's cluttered and confusing mobile app (or browser-based version, for that matter). GigaOm writes that "Facebook’s Paper is Facebook for people who hate Facebook"Facebook's new reader "Paper"(Like me.) When Paper first emerged in my Twitterstream, I wondered how Facebook was able to own such a common (albeit anachronistic) name for its first reader. As it turns out, the world's largest social network doesn't exactly have the rights to the brand name Paper. Moreover, the company that does is not too pleased by the surprise embrace of the name. The Verge reports: "Facebook announced its new, gorgeous mobile app Paper last week, paving the way to today's launch on iOS. It's already an impressive new way of navigating Facebook. However, the company is now in hot water over the name, since Paper by FiftyThree, a well-regarded app in the App Store, has been around since 2012. FiftyThree CEO Georg Petschnigg took to the company blog this morning to politely ask that Facebook "stop using our brand name." I'm not certain where this will all end up. Facebook could easily make Mr. Petschnigg a very rich man in exchange for the rights to use the brand name. Or, as Mr. Petschnigg suggests: "There’s a simple fix here. We think Facebook can apply the same degree of thought they put into the app into building a brand name of their own. An app about stories shouldn’t start with someone else’s story."The New York Observer postulates that Facebook could care less (thus far) about Mr. Petschnigg's grievance: "According to Mr. Petschnigg’s post, Facebook has apologized for “the confusion their app was creating,” and for “not contacting [Paper] sooner,” but it hasn’t actually offered up any kind of solution to the problem." Be that as it may, suddenly Paper by FiftyThree is in the news in a positive light.  allowfullscreen="" height="281" mozallowfullscreen="" src="//" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="500">I wonder how all this controversy affected its download rate? As for Facebook, I imagine it will have to blink -- something about David & Goliath. [...]

Those Super Bowl Ads

Fri, 31 Jan 2014 08:30:58 PST

Having worked on a good share of Super Bowl ad campaigns over the years — from HotJobs to Pepsi — I try to keep tabs on the tools and strategies PR agencies deploy on behalf of their clients to emerge as “winners.” For the longest time, many debated the wisdom of releasing a spot in advance of the game, versus achieving some element of surprise during the game itself.Success invariably was measured by the amount of positive pre- and post-game media coverage that a spot generated. Nowadays, that success will likely be determined by the number of YouTube visits or the volume of Facebook posts and Twitter tweets.Stuart ElliottThe New York Times‘s veteran ad columnist Stuart Elliott has been in the game, so to speak, for some 26 years, starting with his days at USA Today. Here’s his latest take. Few beat reporters bring the perspective that Stuart does to this, the advertising industry’s most prominent and hyperbolic showcase event.As we head into Super Bowl weekend, I thought it would be instructive to get Stuart’s POV on the strategies and history of the Super Bowl ad game.How many Super Bowl advertising campaigns have you covered?my first was in 1989, for usa today, i was part of the team for the first ad meter, so this is my 26th ad bowl inside the super bowl (3 at usa today, rest at the times)What has changed the most since your first campaign story?the change in strategy, from hiding all the content till the spots ran in the game to the social media influenced tactic of teasers, previews, releasing spots before game, releasing versions of spots, etc, and priming pump through socialWhat hasn’t changed? it’s still the biggest day of the year for advertising as well as for football When I worked on the HotJobs campaign back in the dot-com era, we were the first agency to make our spot accessible to ad reporters online in advance of the game. (Before that, I’ll never forget your requirement to hand-deliver the spots on a 3/4-inch Sony -Umatic tape.) What is the preferred delivery method today?youtube linksYou cite YouTube visits as one measure of success. Has the social media dimension killed the debate over whether to release a spot in advance of the game? Do any advertisers still count on the element of surprise?yes, several still want to surprise, like chrysler. some, if they buy 2 ads, will release one ahead of time and sit on the otherDo you have any favorite spots in your years covering the Super Bowl? favorite: hard to say, maybe fedex 2005 i think, the 10 ingredients for a successful super bowl spot  width="420" height="315" src="//" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>What have been your least favorite?least favorite: just for feet, insensitive bordering on racismBoth HotJobs and GoDaddy achieved quite a bit if recognition for having their spots rejected from airing during the game. Would you put the Scarlett Johansson spot for SodaStream in the same category? no b/c people understand the gaming of the system that the “banned from the super bowl!” marketers are trying to do. even a DJ on wcbs-fm this morning, talking about it, called it a manufactured controversyObviously, Twitter will serve as a barometer for the popularity (or lack thereof) of this year’s Super Bowl spots. Do you intend to reflect that in your post-mortem story on the game’s advertising? yes of courseIn your piece today, you use the term “high stakes” to describe the rolling of the dice for a $4 million 30-second Super Bowl spot. I also noticed that the fates of some lesser-known agencies rest on the “performance” of their client’s spots. Are we seeing a move from the big holding company agencies to more nimble and social-savvy digital shops when it comes Super Bowl advertising? ads come from a mix of agencies, can’t generalize though usually it’s AOR that makes the ad, with help fro[...]

1 In 128 Billion: A Slam Dunk

Tue, 21 Jan 2014 13:30:19 PST

Warren Buffett (via Forbes)These are the odds of winning the $1 billion that Warren Buffet and Quicken Loans ponied up for the NCAA hoops genius who correctly picks the "perfect March Madness" bracket.  Not only will Mr. Buffet and Quicken Loans not have to make a payout anytime soon, but the publicity this little PR promotion has and will generate will more than compensate for the time and effort spent to develop and announce the "contest."The Atlantic's Derek Thompson queried Quicken for an explanation: "Why offer $1 billion for sheer dumb luck? I've called and emailed Quicken Loans for a response. When I get it, I will tell you. But I have a pretty good guess: They are offering to pay $1 billion, because they know they will never have to pay $1 billion."Here's how the paid press release read: DETROIT, Jan. 21, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Detroit-based Quicken Loans, the nation's fourth largest mortgage lender, has joined forces with Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway to offer a chance at a $1 billion prize for completing the perfect bracket in this March's men's college basketball championship tournament. Any qualified entrant who correctly enters the contest and predicts the winners of every game in the tournament will share the total $1 billion prize paid in 40 annual installments of $25 million. Alternatively, the winner(s) may elect to receive an immediate $500 million lump sum payment or share in that lump sum payment if there is more than one perfect bracket submitted.Unlike the mega-millions lottery in which someone inevitable guesses the right numbers, this contest is doomed from the outset. Thompson continued: "Those odds are 1 in 128 billion, according to DePaul math professor Jay Bergen. (Some outlets are quoting 1 in 9.2 quintillion, but that assumes that all 63 games are 50-50 toss-ups, which they're not. For example, Number 1 seeds just about always advance to the second round.) If everyone in the United States filled out a bracket, Chris Chase calculated, we'd get a $1 billion winner every 400 years."So let's forget about the benevolence (and sense of fairness) perpetrated by Quicken Loans and Mr. Buffet who, frankly I'm surprised would allow his name to be leveraged in this fashion. Actually, Derek, the impetus has more to do with the free ink and airtime spawned by this ruse than the prospect of crowning a winner. Here's a sampling of the coverage to date:Bloomberg BusinessWeekBusiness InsiderBleecher ReportCNBCNY Daily NewsCBS New York USA Todaytoo many more to list...Just think of all the new names and email addresses Quicken Loans will capture as a result, and their name associated with one of the world's most recognized and astute investors.  Net Net from a PR perspective: it's a slam dunk.  [...]

Media Relations Is Dead. Long Live Media Relations.

Thu, 16 Jan 2014 09:14:02 PST

A few weeks ago, a senior media executive at one of the largest, most digitally savvy PR agencies shared with me a call he had with his top management in which they lamented the lack of media relations savvy from the firm’s younger professionals. “Shouldn’t there be more formal training,” they pressed, to which he replied that he’s already established a regular agency-wide communiqué with publicity-generating tips and contacts. The executive also suggested to his managers that perhaps the firm should lighten up on the external promotion of non-traditional means for building branded digital media footprints.As we enter 2014, it’s easy to point to content marketing – earned, owned, paid and otherwise — as the direction in which the industry is headed. In fact, I personally called for agencies to embrace hybrid paid/owned and earned/owned content schemes in last year’s year-end post. More recently I wrote that the time was ripe for PR firms to further ratchet up their content marketing game by embracing some of the sophisticated new algorithms and A/B testing schemes that enhance the likelihood of a viewer clicking on and/or sharing a piece of client content. The industry also has access to data-driven mechanisms that tell whether exposure to a marketing-driven message eventually led to a sales transaction. In last year’s post, I worried that firms and practitioners who rely solely on the benevolence of journalists to advance theirs clients’ communications interests may eventually be left behind. There are just too many avenues from which consumers today take their news and information, starting with Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Even so, a great “placement” (I hate that term) in an influential media outlet like Bloomberg, The Journal, Mashable, and CNNMoney or on The AP wire retains an uncanny capacity to set Twitter tongues-a-wagging. It is for this reason that earned media, i.e., the successful engagement of a journalist that results in editorial coverage, will remain very much a core industry offering in 2014. As much as has changed, my clients continue to want to see their product, service or point-of-view reported in the “media.”This reality is not lost on the vast majority of agencies. I can’t tell you how many requests I receive from some of the most forward-thinking (and sounding) shops for help finding them solid media relations pros. One look at any PR job board will reveal that media relations remains the single-most sought-after competency by agencies of all stripes and most in-house communications departments.There’s nothing like a seasoned PR pro who understands how to navigate (and have empathy for) the most sought-after reporters, bloggers and TV producers. Yet, the competition for these journalists’ limited bandwidth is as fierce as it’s been in my three decades plying the PR trade. In fact, I would guess that fewer than one in a hundred PR pitches actually succeed in producing coverage. (Not for my clients, of course.)It seems that consumers are not alone in taking their news and info from non-traditional sources. Journalists too have self-selected the sources on whom they rely for real-time story ideas. As a result, they have grown less beholden to PR professionals. (This of course varies from industry to industry and from agency to in-house.)Nonetheless, in 2014, for better or worse, media coverage (that makes a difference) will continue to be the primary measure by which the vast majority of agencies are largely compensated and for which industry awards are handed out. Once we accept this reality, we simply must do a better job to inculcate those new to the profession in the workings of the modern media organization and those within it responsible for producing editorial content. There is no reason for our industry to constantly take it o[...]

Social Clout At Re/Code

Sun, 05 Jan 2014 12:51:13 PST

Very few business news organizations enjoy the brand esteem and influence of Dow Jones's Wall Street Journal. A prominent story within WSJ's print or digital editions has the capacity to drive conversations, alter corporate fortunes (and stock price), and even affect government policy.On top of that, few professions, outside of technology or entertainment, have embraced and benefitted from social media to the degree that journalism has. We live in an age when the "followers" of a media or reporter's brand can catalyze a national narrative or story meme.  Hence, many of today's forward-thinking writers, editors and producers have built enviable followings (and personal influence) through solid reporting, but also by leveraging for their own aggrandizement the brand equity of their venerable employers.A growing number of these social-minded journalists, emboldened by their many followers, have broken away from their stalwart media brands to form new media entities that may one day rival the influence their former employers have historically enjoyed. Astute media observer Mathew Ingram of GigaOm wrote at the time Nate Silver and his Five Thirty-Eight blog bolted The New York Times for ESPN: "Nate Silver and the NYT: Media platforms still have power — just not as much as they used to" Others that come to mind include Digiday's Brian Morrissey (formerly AdWeek), TheWrap's Sharon Waxman (WashPost and The New York Times), PandoDaily's Sarah Lacy (TechCrunch), The Daily Dish's Andrew Sullivan (Daily Beast, The New Republic), and The Information's Jessica Lessin (Wall Street Journal).  Separately, former New York Times TV/media reporter Brian Stelter (232K Twitter followers), his former colleague Nate Silver (645K followers), and former Politico reporter Ben Smith (169K followers) have bestowed their social followings upon CNN, ESPN and Buzzfeed, respectively.The rise of the personal media brand is nothing new. Its roots took hold more than a decade ago when new technology tools/platforms suddenly empowered anyone to create and syndicate content. (Read Dan Gillmor's We the Media and Robert Scoble & Shel Israel's Naked Conversations to get a sense of the early days.)After months of speculation, the latest and most audacious of the new media brands made its public debut this week, fueled by the social clout of its tech-famous founders. AllThingsD's venerable editors Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg extricated themselves and the entire ATD staff from the cocoon of The Wall Street Journal to form Re/Code, a tech news/feature site and conference company that has backing from NBC and others.As a likely part of the separation terms, the Dow Jones pre-announced the name of ATD's successor -- WSJ.D -- and along with it the hiring of a handful of qualified, but admittedly less socially wired reporters and editors.This media re-alignment, and that of Pierre Omidyar's new venture First Look Media, also buoyed by the socially connected Dan Froomkin (Wash Post, HuffPost), Glenn Greenwald (The Guardian) and Jay Rosen (NYU), raises several important questions:Can high quality journalism alone sustain a news brand's vitality in today's socially fueled media techonomy?Or rather, can a media brand succeed without an editorial staff that's actively engaged on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram and/or Google+?   Finally, as media consumption has splintered, is it enough for the parent brand alone to have a large social following?  A few months ago, I was invited to preside over a webinar that looked at the latest public relations tools and techniques.  One of the presenters was the senior digital comms person for PBS who told the group that when the network wanted to announce news, it simply posted the story to [...]

In Search Of Justine

Sun, 22 Dec 2013 09:28:20 PST

Of all the pontificators on Twitter who weighed in on the unfortunate Friday night fiasco featuring one Justine Sacco (in absentia), several struck a chord with me. I personally weighed in to suggest that the easy-to-pounce Twittersphere give Ms. Sacco a break until she resurfaces to explain herself:
I believe them.(image)