Posts Tagged ‘thought leader’

Why Is the National Geographic Channel So Awful?

March 9th, 2010

Thought leadership, as seen by public relations specialists, is all about establishing persuasive authority in one’s industry.  By building respect with media stakeholders and commentators, you get a leg up on the competition in predicting industry trends.

Thought leadership is also very difficult, given that your rivals want in on the action too.  That’s why a business should fight hard to keep its spot at the top, and avoid amateur mistakes that threaten credible authority on the issues.

It’s safe to say that National Geographic, the magazine, is a thought leader in raising awareness of current and historical cultural trends through beautiful photography, captivating writing and a willingness to explore areas that others haven’t.  This is the magazine’s tradition since its first issue in 1888.

So why, then, does the National Geographic Channel on cable contain such miserable and sensational programming?  Why would an entity purposely cannibalize its own globally-respected brand by appealing to the basest form of mass-media culture?  It’s like New Coke all over again, except we’re watching it, not drinking it.

Ok, we get it – call your channel NatGeo so it sounds all sexy, like a uni-celebrity name such as J-Lo or Brangelina.  But why pollute your content stream with vulgar shows?

Consider the “Lockdown” series which exploits and glamorizes life in the world’s most dangerous prisons.  Now, don’t confuse that series with “Locked Up Abroad” which offers cheesy dramatizations of unsuspecting tourists who are kidnapped and/or imprisoned in foreign countries.  How about the show “Haunted Prison” which, as you can guess, analyzes ghosts and other paranormal activity in prisons?

At this point, I’m simply wondering why is NatGeo so obsessed with prisons?

With all the penal-programming, it’s a wonder that NatGeo makes time for other thought-provoking shows, such as “Stigmata: Explore the Phenomena.”  And how’s this for a parade of brain-dead shows – the following are programs from the “Is It Real?” series (N.B. these really are the names of the shows):

• “Ghosts”

• “Ape Man”

• “Extreme Sleepwalking”

• “Feral Children”

• “Police Psychics”

• “Psychic Animals”

• “Vampires”

• “Spontaneous Human Combustion”

National Geographic, the competition is laughing at you.  The kind of howl-inducing laughter that makes you double-over, cry tears and gasp for air.  With every broadcast, you are in danger of ruining your valued brand beyond all repair.  Stop now before it’s too late…

DC PR Firm Dispatch: How McDonnell Should Respond to the State of the Union

January 21st, 2010

As is customary, a member of the opposing political party has been tapped to deliver the response to the President’s State of the Union speech next week.  This year it’s Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell’s turn to do the deed, and as a rising star in the Republican party, he has high expectations to meet.

When you’re assigned an enormous public relations task – parrying with the President – you owe it to yourself to prepare well.  If this were a contest, you’re battling the toughest opponent there is.

So what should you say in your speech?  To answer that question, let’s reverse engineer Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s absolutely disastrous performance last year when he delivered the response.  That way, we can understand some helpful public relations tactics and considerations for McDonnell.

Maintain appropriate tone.  When discussing America’s standing on the world stage, you’re addressing serious issues in global public affairs.  Therefore, your tone as a thought leader should never stray toward anything silly.  Jindal’s words and demeanor were better suited to lecturing toddlers on the importance of listening to grown-ups, but poorly focused on serious political debate.

Practice before skeptics.  Even if Jindal rehearsed his speech with his staff, he should have done so with people outside politics – after all, this is a speech to the nation, not just political insiders.  When your message will be heard by different audiences, make sure you speak to more than just your base.  Otherwise, you risk having your speech finalized via echo chamber, with no constructive feedback to improve it.

Know the consequences of your attacks.  Bashing a government program, particularly when you are a government official, brings you dangerously close to self-inflicted wounds.  In a typical rant on out-of-control government spending, Jindal harshly criticized taxpayer dollars being wasted on “volcano monitoring” and he emphasized these words to enhance their latent absurdity.  Only problem is, “volcano monitoring” is actually a very important geological monitoring service done by the federal government to anticipate natural disasters.  Just like the one that struck Jindal’s state a few years earlier…

Don’t lie.  We all know that being political is often an exercise in bending facts, but some politicians still think out-right lies are smart strategy.  Jindal’s “aw shucks” anecdote about locals standing up to big bad government bureaucrats during Hurricane Katrina disaster relief was later revealed as a total falsehood.  Once your speech wanders into fantasy, you’ve lost almost all credibility.