Posts Tagged ‘issues debates’

Less Talking, More Driving — No More Phones in Cars!

January 26th, 2010

As of today, Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced that he will push for a total ban of mobile phone use in cars.  LaHood made the announcement at the National Press Club, during the same week that the american auto industry is putting on its annual auto show extravaganza in DC.

If this become official government policy, expect major issues debates on distracted driving and other relevant matters to escalate rapidly.  In particular, it will be interesting to see what happens with all the announcements made at CES about new tech products being integrated into our cars.

DC PR Firms Dispatch: The Anatomy of Conan’s Brilliant Statement and Strategy

January 13th, 2010

In the ongoing battle over late-night entertainment slots at NBC, consider the brilliant public relations move by Conan O’Brien in airing his grievances with the network’s behavior.  For those who haven’t followed, sagging ratings for Jay Leno’s show encouraged NBC’s executives to ask Conan to move his show back to a later start time.  Conan’s statement in response is deft, witty, concise, sublime, aggressive without being arrogant – in other words, a publicist’s dream tactic.

The view from the world of DC PR firms, who regularly deal with issues debates and strategic campaigns, must be one of awe and envy.  If you don’t believe how effective Conan’s statement was, let’s see what NBC said in response.  Oh wait… can’t seem to find anything in plain view on their site that addresses this matter… I sincerely hope that the ostrich-head-in-the-sand isn’t NBC’s PR strategy.

With that said, let’s analyze the statement to summarize the chessboard public relations tactics employed:

“People of Earth.” Conan’s introduction reaffirms who the messenger is: A comedian.  That it’s also a funny and original way of beginning doesn’t hurt.  Lesson: People appreciate when you own up to your identity.

•  I grew up watching Johnny Carson every night and the chance to one day sit in that chair has meant everything to me.” Everyone loves a tip of the hat to an industry idol, and Conan shows humility and respect in his homage to Carson.  This makes the statement less about him and more about saving the late night franchise.

“After only seven months, with my Tonight Show in its infancy, NBC has decided to react to their terrible difficulties in prime-time by making a change in their long-established late night schedule.” Conan puts the ball directly in NBC’s court, by explaining that he has no control over the fate of his show.  This puts NBC on the defensive and forces them to react, instead of going on offense.

“The Tonight Show at 12:05 simply isn’t the Tonight Show.” Strongest line in the whole statement.  This sentence boils the whole ordeal into ten words, one that conveys clear literal and figurative meaning and speaks volumes.

“My hope is that NBC and I can resolve this quickly so that my staff, crew, and I can do a show we can be proud of, for a company that values our work.” Conan closes by taking the high road, putting a nice positive end on his rant.

Overall, Conan’s statement reinforces the negative thoughts about the network, while at the same time promoting the positive steps he’s taken to preserve the integrity of the late night franchise.  Well played!

DC PR Firm Dispatch: Why Public Affairs Predictions Must Embrace the Present

December 28th, 2009

A great source of discontent with public figures perhaps derives from grand predictions gone awry.  The online magazine Foreign Policy catalogues the biggest errors in policy fortune-telling from 2009.

From an experienced DC PR firm perspective, it’s easy to understand why such errant predictions frustrate us.  And, it’s probably safe to say that public figures are primarily driven by politics, so there isn’t much point in dissecting the motivation behind grandiose statements made in an issues debate.  The better question may be, what can a public relations perspective offer in the way of meaningful analysis?

The answer touches on the dilemma that a public relations specialist wrestles with every day – what is the best principle to apply in effective client representation?  Many DC PR firm clients want to be part of the issues debate of the day, so inherently, the advice they get places great weight on future events.  Now, it’s one thing to analyze the ongoing pattern of current issues debates, but another thing to make grand, overarching predictions on how certain events will unfold without examining present opportunities.  These oversights tend to jeopardize key publicity tactics available at the moment.

So, instead of simply passing myopic judgment on past events, how about focusing instead on the present, along with the immediate opportunities the moment provides for the future?  Think about it – in the present, we know what’s happening, who the stakeholders are, what’s being said about the issues, the public intentions of key decision-makers, and so forth.  That’s a wealth of information that can guide the advice a PR firm gives a client.

With a thorough analysis of what’s occurring currently, we can better serve a client with PR solutions that leverage every available opportunity, instead of dreaming of what may happen in a few days, weeks or months ahead without recommending steps to take.  It may be a radical way of thinking in the PR industry, but one that countless great thinkers and philosophers embrace, so it’s worth a look by PR professionals as well.  If we’re to put an end to misguided public affairs predictions, this isn’t a bad alternative to consider.

Issues Debate: What the Google Phone Means for Net Neutrality

December 15th, 2009

Google has announced plans for a new mobile phone, one that will certainly lock horns with the iPhone and other smartphones upon commercial release.  New gadgets always generate public relations buzz, but the bigger issue at stake here is the phone’s likely impact on the net neutrality issues debate and how regulators ultimately react.

Network neutrality, or “net neutrality” as labeled in policy circles, is a leading issues debate about consumer and corporate access to electronic data traffic networks, and to what degree network providers can play traffic cop legally in this arena.  The issues debate intersects aggressive politics, instant communications, future technology and large corporations.  Oh, and billions and billions of dollars are at stake.

In one way, the Google phone is a piece in a very interesting chess game.  If Google’s phone can be used on any mobile phone network, then wireless companies must decide whether to allow their customers to operate the phone on their network.  If a company blocks the phone, then net neutrality enters the fray.

In any issues debate like net neutrality, the winner is usually whoever defines the terms of the debate earliest.  The Google phone’s potential introduction plan allows the company to do just that, with the wireless companies stuck constantly responding.

Fortunately for the AT&T’s and Verizon’s of the world, they still have time to adjust their practices and generate stronger customer loyalty and market share – and hence more support for their net neutrality stance – and thus avoid being caught off guard.  In public relations and issues debates, always remember: the worst place on the chess board is in the corner, with limited message options.