We've Been Stumbled Upon

On our website, on the "closer look" page, Tim did a great job creating a 360 degree Flash presentation so our visitors could have a view of the Glo to Sleep at all angles. We love that page and think it does a great job showcasing all the features of our product. Apparently, somebody else thought it was a great page! An unknown visitor to our website gave it the thumbs up and added it to StumbleUpon - a website that helps you discover and share cool websites. When you sign up, you get a StumbleUpon toolbar extension - when you find a site you like, you can click on the "thumb ups" icon and add it to StumbleUpon - then others can share in your discovery. You can also go to the StumbleUpon website and "channel surf" through some amazingly cool sites. We feel so honoured that were Stumbled Upon! And we're so glad we were given the opportunity to discover this site - it's alot of fun to browse and we use our new Stumble toolbar alot! Check it out and sign up - you'll be glad you did.

Thanks to whoever gave us the thumbs up, and thanks to all those Stumblers that have taken the time to check out our website!


What's News? The Alleged "Tielinda" Affair in Canadian News

If you saw the Calgary Herald and the National Post today - you were looking at this woman, Belinda Stronach, the striking, mega-rich woman who left business to serve the nation in opposition as a Conservative, then a Liberal cabinet minister, then as a Liberal in opposition.

Lay the National Post, Calgary Herald and Globe and Mail side-by-side today and ask yourself the old Sesame Street question: which one of these things is not like the other? The answer is: the Globe and Mail and the absence of any reference to the alleged Stronach/Domi affair on the front page. You'll need one turn over to get to the story, and big photos, on A3. The famous woman
the Globe put on the cover of today was Mona Lisa.

Ms. Stronach made it above the fold on Tuesday's Herald too, pictured alongside her friend Tie Domi. Maybe it was a function of press times that the Herald ran the story and neither of the national dailies, that I saw, covered it. I thought it might also be worth noting that the front page of Tuesday's Globe featured a photo and story about Conrad Black wanting his Canadian citizenship back. Funny, no such story on the cover of Black's former paper, the National Post.

There are myriad reasons, I'm sure, why one story makes the front page of one paper and not another - economics chief among them. Scandal, or the smell of scandal can certainly move papers. But is there more? Is there a question of values, of political ideology driving this? Do the conservative Post and Herald of the CanWest family have an interest or desire to highlight the failings of a Liberal? Especially that of an infamous Liberal who was once an infamous Conservative? For the record, I think it's a fairly safe assertion to consider the Post and the Herald conservative given positions published on their editorial pages.

Does the Globe and Mail have an interest to put the Stronach story on A3? Is it because they are liberal? Are they liberal? Again, looking at what makes the editorial pages, I would suggest the Globe is more liberal than the National Post - but that in itself does not mean the paper is liberal. My personal view is that the Globe is more centrist in its philosophy and more regularly skews to a liberal position.

Is it not about political ideology at all? Is it really about wanting to take the "high road" and not give an alleged affair a place on the front page? Is it about distinguishing your paper as more serious news?

Or is this just a question of celebrity? Ms. Stronach seems to me to be not much more than a celebutante, famous for simply being famous.
I have neither read nor heard any public account of her wowing her Conservative caucus colleagues or her Liberal ones with the strength of her ideas. She is certainly no great orator as evidenced by her performance during the Conservative leadership campaign and in any recent TV news interviews where she seemingly lacks the ability to speak extemporaneously on a given issue - even ones she would be able to speak to effectively. Maybe it's just me as a PR person, but it's rare that I listen to her and hear her message. What I hear instead are her talking points, carefully constructed in various forms designed to convey a message but ones she's unable to articulate with enough fluency to create a sense of message.

Celebrity, ideology, economics? I don't know if any or all of these things are factors in what made the news today but, as a media consumer, I still ask these questions. I think about the frame of the news, not just what is presented as news.

As a bit of an aside, I think if this story broke in the U.K. or the U.S., we would have already seen "Tielinda" used as a headline - drawing from that relatively new tabloid technique of a combined name to refer to a celebrity entity, as with TomKat, Beniffer and, Brangelina. As such, it is with tongue firmly inserted in cheek that I use it as the headline to this piece!

One other observation. Don Martin, "Calgary's Eye on National Politics", couldn't have asked for a better set up to the launch of his new book, Belinda: The Political And Private Life Of Belinda Stronach. The Herald is publishing an excerpt from the book on Friday which it is, of course, promoting alongside Martin's column today, calling the book timely and provocative. That reads a lot more like ad copy than editorial to me . . . but hey, I'm just a PR guy.


Will the You Tube/Warner Deal Be Good For You?

As I said some time ago - capital knows no boundary and,
if you stand around in the web world, you can just watch new revenue streams form around you. It's like a high water level pushing at the levy - at some point something has got to give.

If we look at the recent YouTube deal with Warner Music Group, what gave? Well . . . you have 19-month-old YouTube started by two guys with some $11.5M in venture capital. Today, that little venture serves up more than 100 million videos today and has become the zeitgeist of web and pop culture. YouTube's movement to the starring role of today's Web also brought some troubles . . . particularly in the area of copyright infringement with the user generated content hosted on YouTube. In recent weeks, music companies like Universal have threatened to sue YouTube.

As reported in the New York Times: "Under the revenue-sharing accord, YouTube.com will use special software to identify recordings used in videos posted by users and then offer the owner of the copyrighted music a percentage of the fee for advertising that would run alongside the clip."

YouTube sidesteps the copyright issue by giving Warner a piece of the ad revenue action. As far as I've been able to find - no details on the exact financial arrangement have been published which, of course, makes sense since Warner isn't likely the only music/entertainment company YouTube will want to strike deals with. Warner wins because it (er, I mean its artists) get paid for their work and they don't have to litigate.

The deal is good for YouTube and it's good for Warner Music Group, but is it good for YouTubers? I think only time will tell. The ad revenue streams are starting to multiply - I blogged a while ago on astroturfing and used the Paris Hilton promotion as an example. Not long after that posting (and I don't suggest because of it!) YouTube unveiled a new revenue model - brand channels: separating out "real" content from astroturfing and making money while doing it. NBC saw the value and signed on too, back in June.

One more point on this issue - I think it's definitely worth noting that Edgar Bronfman Jr., chair of Warner Music Group, was quoted as saying : "Consumer-empowering destinations like YouTube have created a two-way dialogue that will transform entertainment and media forever."

Two-way communication, you say? And they say PR is dead! I couldn't possibly disagree more!


Katie's Coup and a Few Other Observations

I'm sure others have already commented on this but that's the beauty of the blogosphere, right? Anyway, I've had my nose in Jared Diamond's "Collapse" and haven't really been paying attention to much else . . . more on that later.

So - Katie did a respectable job. She stumbled on one word but, who's counting? What I thought was the coup was getting the preview shots of baby Suri Cruise. Wow. Entertainment Tonight was left to just SAY they would be showing the shots the next day. What I thought was more interesting, however, was the setup for the piece and the new "Snapshot" segment. They looked back at pictures of baby Prince Charles and then cut to images of the Cruise family and baby Suri. Some 58 years ago it was national news that the new heir to the British throne was born, today, the equivalent royalty is the child of a movie star. The way the entire story was structured really created this sense of parity. I thought it was an interesting commentary on the state of celebrity in America.

The asking for help with suggestions for a signoff was a dud for me. Regardless of whether or not I think the entire concept of needing a signoff is valid - the whole point of it is that it essentially functions as a signature. It says something about the anchor. Further to my point in my blog the other day - Katie's all about connecting with people. In that way, I guess reaching out for input on her signature is in fact, her signature.

Besides, what do I know - she's the one with the $15M contract for about 4 - 5 minutes of on air time each day.


Can Katie Save Slumping CBS?

Around this time last year, the career of Dan Rather took a nosedive after a 60 Minutes story aired with false information. While it wasn't quite the end of Rather's career, he stayed on as host of the CBS Evening News until March 2006, it had all the other markings of a rather ingnominious end to an interesting career.

Later in the spring came the announcement that cheerful morning news anchor and chief revenue development officer at Today was joining CBS. That's right, Ms. Colonoscopy was going to sit behind the big desk at CBS.

While CBS has hardly been shy about promoting Katie, I was interested to watch promo spots this weekend while taking in US Open coverage on CBS and see Katie dressed for the evening in a dark suit and single strand of pearls. The script was earnest and sincere and tried ever so hard to draw on the personal connection that viewers apparently feel for Ms. Couric. She was already sitting - as though we were about to have a serious conversation - and her tone struck me as, well, like someone I really trust sitting me down to give me a talk. Like she knew what was important to me and here's what she had to say about it. It felt like there was a transition afoot from "Look up my bum Katie" to "Senior trust source Ms. Couric".

If you heard none of the script and Ms. Couric's earnest tone - the pearls and dark suit would have been more than enough to send the message.

So, the positioning is clear. What isn't so clear is if Katie and Ms. Couric can reverse the slumping ratings of CBS. I'm not one to watch US network supper news - and when I did it came from Canadian Peter Jennings - but I'm going to have a watch tonight and see how she does.

The credibility of CBS news - especially among Republicans - has dropped in recent years - though CBS certainly isn't alone - network news overall has lost credibility among viewers.
I'm wishing her well, of course, she seems to incredibly nice to wish her some sort of evil.

I just hope CBS recognizes she's a news anchor, not a superhero.


To be accredited, or not to be accredited - that is the question

There has always been debate about accreditation - it is neither new nor near an end in terms of resolution. I agree with Kami Huyse, Accreditation Chair for PRSA San Anonio that there are many great reasons why PR practitioners should seek accreditation.

Not the least of which is that it builds not only a benchmark for the way we employ our PR skills, it sets a benchmark for the way organizations choose to us PR in their environment. The key here is that it is a choice.

Accredited PR professionals still need to make the choice to practice ethically and organizations choose to ask them to act ethically. The same can be said about the deployment of PR as a management function and PR programs that link to organizational goals. In this, I also agreed with Todd Defren and his position opposite Kami Huyse.

Despite it's many benefits - accreditation is not the panacea for PR's image problem.

Perhaps I'm a masochist as I choose to practice PR/Marketing at a law firm. That's two of the three least trusted professions out there. The professional designations lawyers required do not prevent them from being bad lawyers or making unethical decisions. Of course, they can be censured or disbarred - but punishment is not a remedy in this situation as they already know those two disciplinary actions are in place BEFORE they do shoddy work or act unethically.

(Beyond this, if your only motivation to act professionally is the threat of discipline then you haven't reach a particulary high level of moral development. )

Undoubtedly, the path to accrediation is a learning process, but I know of a number of excellent practitioners who push themselves on a daily basis to do better and know more about what they do while not on a track to receive accredition.

My point - and I think I have one - is that whether or not you choose to get accredited, you still need to choose to act professionally.