Seeing through the media bias

I just came from a really great conversation with journalist/friend John Boyanoski, a writer for the Upstate’s Community Journals (covering Greenville, Anderson and Spartanburg, S.C.).  With it being Election Day and all, the conversation took on a political tone.

But what I found so invigorating about my talk with John, was how we were able to talk to each other with respect and tolerance towards each other’s views (something I can’t do even in my own family – it turns into a shouting match every time).  It was so nice to be able to listen to John’s opinions and be able to talk about mine without feeling persecuted or like I was in the wrong for my ideas.

But what really got me thinking was our conversation about the media bias that has (or hasn’t, depending on your opinion) taken place during this presidential election year. I watched a story on Inside Edition last night (I know, not hard core news, but I still enjoy it) about how ‘entertainment news shows’ like The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The View, CBS Late Show with David Letterman and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, were all skewed to support Barack Obama versus John McCain.

Inside Edition aired clips of the two Ellen shows where both presidential candidates appeared.  In the Obama episode, he danced and was able to show his more personal side.  When McCain appeared, Ellen grilled him about his opposing views on gay marriage (even though both candidates have openly opposed the idea). 

Likewise on The View, Barbara Walters openly flirted with Obama asking if she could call him, “sexy,” while McCain’s appearance turned into a full-on grill-fest from Whoopie Goldberg.  And statistics show the late night entertainment shows zinged McCain and party 475 times this year, while Obama only received 69 negative jokes. 

Obviously there’s a very real bias there.  But since those shows don’t claim to be, and have never been, hard news programs, are they held accountable to the same fair and objective coverage of the other news organizations?  Should they be held responsible for using the airtime to subliminally support one presidential candidate over another, knowing the weight it might hold with the viewer?

I’ll admit when I’m watching Ellen, I’m not really watching it to catch up on my news.  I watch it for the entertainment value.  Are we, as the general U.S. voting population, astute enough to see through the subliminal messages and still make an educated vote based on our own moral convictions? It’s easy to go along with people like Ellen because you feel like you know them.

Regardless of who you voted for today (and you DID vote, didn’t you?  Hey, I’m nine months pregnant and stood in line for two hours to do it – so no excuses for you!), it’s important that we, as Americans, take the time to do our homework, research the candidates and make a decision that best fits our lifestyle and opinions. 

But how far should these types of shows be allowed to carry their opinion to the viewing public?  And how can people see through that to make sure they’re making an educated opinion?

I look forward to camping out in my living room tonight watching election returns and enjoying our American democratic process. And don’t forget to vote today!

Palmetto PR Diva Dish – Amy Bomar, president of Bomar Marketing Solutions

After reviewing Amy’s profile, I think there is one general traits professionals in the public relations and marketing industry seem to have in common. And that is the fact that we love to be busy, meet deadlines and have action-packed days. Read on to learn more about Amy Bomar, president of Bomar Marketing Solutions.

Also, we are looking for a few good professionals to profile each Friday for our Palmetto PR Diva Dish section. If you are interested in participating or would like to nominate someone, please let me know!

o Please provide title and a brief description of what you do:

I’m an independent public relations and marketing practitioner located in Greenville, South Carolina. Services include strategic public relations planning, copywriting, media relations, media training, issues management, collateral development and branding.

o How did you become interested in the public relations/advertising industry?

A love of writing first led me to this career. I studied communications and journalism in college. When I entered the business word, I discovered that my communication, writing and strategic skills made public relations a great fit for me.

o What changes have you seen in the industry that is the most interesting to you?

Constant access to new information is so exciting these days. It helps us all become better educated consumers and learners. The Internet is such a great learning tool, I use it constantly for research and professional development purposes. Of course the rapid access to information can also be a challenge if your organization or one of your client’s organizations is portrayed poorly online!

o Are you involved in any professional associations? If so, what are they and what do you learn by being involved?

I’ve been a member of various groups through the years. Currently, I’m a member of the South Carolina Chapter of PRSA (SCPRSA), a member of PRSA’s Independent Practitioner Alliance and I’m planning to join the Carolinas Healthcare Public Relations and Marketing Society (I worked at a healthcare organization for 14 years and have several healthcare clients today). While being a member of a professional association is great, I believe you really get your value out of your membership through involvement – serving on a committee, regularly attending meetings etc. This year, I’m serving as chair of SCPRSA’s Communications Committee, which has given me the opportunity to work and make friends with PR professionals throughout the state.

o What is the one piece of advice you would give students that are interested in pursuing a career in the public relations/investor relations/marketing industry?

Keep reading! In order to be an outstanding advisor to your clients or employer, you need to be knowledgeable about all kinds of topics – from PR to politics to local business news. Read a variety of publications (online or print), blogs, books etc. Learn about the latest trends, interesting facts and keep up with what everyone is talking about. Become a life-long learner!

o What is the best thing about your job?

Okay – this probably says something about my personality, but I love to be busy. In one of my former positions, I loved crazy media days when we had some kind of crisis occurring – the media were camped out, the phones wouldn’t stop ringing, our pagers were going off and we had to be five places at the same time. I love making decisions in times of crisis. I actually enjoy deadlines (crazy, I know). Writing assignments are also one of the favorite parts of my job.

o What is the thing you like least about your job?

Downtime in between projects. Of course that never happens, because there is always something I should or could be doing (or learning)!

o Are there any exciting announcements you’d like to tell us about (either with your company or one of your clients)?

My business is doing very well and I’ve had several new client developments recently.
My family and I moved to Greenville a little more than 1 ½ years ago and I would like to say thank you to everyone who has been so welcoming to me. I’ve made many great friends in the local PR and marketing community. I’m also very grateful to the amazing group of independent public relations practitioners in the Upstate who are so supportive of one another, sharing resources, advice and opinions.

o How do you balance your professional career with your personal life?

I have three school age children, which is one of the reasons I decided to become an independent practitioner when we moved to South Carolina. I love my schedule these days! I get the kids ready for school, put them on the bus at 7:20, exercise, and am ready for my work day! I work a full day but still have the flexibility of being around when the kids are home from school, which is great. I often put in work hours in the evening too.

o Anything else you would like to add?

Kudos to Kim and Liza for this blog, and their efforts in bringing together PR practitioners throughout the state! I especially admire how Liza and Kim are interested in reaching out/mentoring the younger generation of PR professionals in the region. There are a lot of professionals with great experience in this area, so we need to do all we can to share our knowledge with those entering the field!

How to succeed in business..and still have a life – IPA PRSA teleseminar – Nov. 19

Just a heads up on an upcoming IPA (Independent Practitioners Alliance) teleseminar hosted by PRSA

Titled “How to succeed in business and still have a life,” the teleseminar will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 19, from 3 to 4:30 p.m.

If there is any interest among practitioners in the Greenville area to attend in a central location and split the fees (Independent Practitioners Alliance Member $85, Member $190 / Nonmember $290), please let me know and I can coordinate. I’ve included the description below.
_______
Too many professionals work hard and yet spin their wheels. Many are only a few minor adjustments away from real success. Learn proven strategies and step-by-step approaches that can make the difference between just getting by and succeeding.

You’ll learn how to:

Set ambitious goals and achieve them.
Develop a concise, focused plan that literally guides your actions, and provides accountability for you and your team members.
Use values to provide guidance to your staff – even when you’re not at the office.
Get the right people on your team…and keep them there.
Delegate effectively.

You will hear from:

Bill Collier, with St. Louis-based Collier Business Advisors, LLC (www.CollierBiz.com) has real life experience starting, growing, buying and selling successful companies, using his own money. He knows what it’s like to have to “make payroll.”

Bill is a business coach, consultant, professional speaker, author and entrepreneur. His book “How to Succeed As a Small Business Owner…and Still Have a Life” reached the #1 Book on Amazon.com in the “Work/Life Balance” category in 2007.

Successfully pitched a blogger – share your stories!

Even though Liza and I have been blogging since March, I haven’t had many opportunities to pitch a blogger myself. Well, I got the perfect chance last week when I was working on a project for the German American Chamber of Commerce South.

They are hosting the 11th annual Bierfest this Friday at Falls Park, and – in addition to conducting traditional media relations activities – I decided to send the information to Brian Cendrowski, blogger at Untamed Beer.

He recently sent me the post, and I hope that it encourages his readers – especially those who are beer lovers of the German variety – to attend and enjoy the event. (You should come, too, if you are in town and want to enjoy some authentic German cuisine, culture and music!!)

In the interest of total transparency, I think I should also mention that Brian is Nicole Cendrowski’s husband. But even though I wasn’t “cold pitching,” the information obviously had to be relevant to his target audience and timely enough to create interest and action.

Do you have success stories in pitching bloggers? Or do you have any “do not try this at home” tips to share from unsuccessful attempts? Join the conversation and let us know your thoughts!

A little customer service goes a long way – update

To everyone who followed my customer service saga yesterday with the local hospital system, I wanted to provide you an update.

After I blogged about my experience, I looked up the customer service contact number at the hospital. I called, and the nice lady on the phone gave me her e-mail address to send in details about my experience. She was very friendly and sounded sincere in her efforts to help. That was about 2 p.m.

At 4:30 p.m., I received a phone call. It was the doctor in charge of the pediatric sleep lab, who ultimately oversees that entire department. My e-mail had made its way to him, and he personally wanted to call and apologize for our experience and to let me know the technician’s supervisor was looking into the matter further.

He explained that while the technician was the newest member of the staff, his behavior was no excuse, since he had been through the same training as everyone else. The doctor went on to say they pride themselves in catering to children, so being able to recognize signs of fear, discomfort, etc. and knowing how to help kids feel more comfortable are very important to them. He said he would have the supervisor call me today and give me an update.

He was actually really nice and seemed geniune in wanting to rectify the situation. I was impressed with how quickly he called (in fact, I think he’d called my phone earlier in the afternoon, but I missed the call). He answered all of my questions about the test my son had done, and assured me they want to do everything they can to make our experience a positive one. He said he couldn’t change what happened for us, but he wanted to make sure it didn’t happen again.

So, long story short, I feel better about the conclusion of the situation. I think this department handled the matter well in quickly addressing the issue and having someone at the top contact me to let me know the matter was under investigation.

There will always be people who are having a bad day, just don’t like their job or something else that prevents them from carrying out a company’s mission. But to err is human, and I like when companies stand up and recognize their fault, and try to do something about it. Well done, Greenville Hospital System.

A little customer service goes a long way

Just a little vent to start off our week….

Last night, I had to spend the night in the hospital with my two year old son, so he could be tested for sleep apnea. Now, unless you’re having a baby, which is probably one of the most glorious experiences you’ll ever have inside a hospital, most people are apprehensive about visiting and/or spending the night in one of these facilities, since you’re usually only there if you’re sick, or if you’re visiting someone who’s sick.

Nonetheless, our city’s hospital has the only pediatric sleep lab in the area, so off we went, with our overnight bags in tow. We go to the specified room, where the technician on duty that night grunted which room we were to be in. No introductions. No smile. Seeing as we were already apprehensive about being there, the night was starting off great.

We get my son settled in his pjs and go through his nighttime rituals. The technician again comes in and monotonously runs through his schpeel about how he would hook up about 100 sensors to my child so he could monitor his sleep and oxygen levels overnight. (Again, he never once looked at my son or even addressed him. They may be small, but toddlers are actual people, too, and understand more than you think).

We get my son to sleep, and the tech comes in and spends the next hour and a half hooking him up to a maze of wires and sensors. Miraculously, my son never woke up.

After a fitful night’s sleep for both of us (I can’t believe he slept as well as he did with all those wires on him), the tech came in this morning to unhook him. No good morning. No, “How did he do?” Just started taking these ledes off, which feel like ripping off band-aids. Except, again, there were about 100 of them.

My son was such a trooper and held it together. Except for one moment when he looked at me with this scared little face and his lip started trembling. One little tear dripped down his cheek, and you could tell he was so scared because this strange man was unceremoniously ripping these things off of him. It broke my heart.

When we left, there was no goodbye or mention when the test results would be in (although already knew that from our referring physician).

The moral of this rant is that a little customer service can go a long way. This technician obviously didn’t like his job, didn’t like children, or both. Especially in a hospital setting when people are already on edge, you would think medical employees would work to be a little more sensitive to people’s fears and concerns – and especially when there are young children involved.

And because you’ll always tell WAY more people are your negative experiences with a brand versus your positive ones, you can bet I’ll be telling anyone who’ll listen about how we were treated during my son’s sleep study. It may not make a difference, but it will make me feel better.

We have to wait three weeks to get the test results back, and unless it’s absolutely medically necessary, I won’t subject my son to that kind of treatment again.

If you deal with any kind of customer in your business, keep in mind how far a little good customer service can go. It might just be a the difference between someone raving about their experience with your brand, or telling the world about their terrible experience.

Now, I’m going to take a nap……

Do ‘pay for performance’ pricing models work?

Recently, GSABusiness covered public relations and advertising in a down economy in their regular podcast, “What’s All the Hype?” Publisher Francis Allgood interviewed Marsha Friedman of Event Management Services in Tampa, Fla. about how companies can maximize publicity opportunities when the economy is in a funk.

You can listen to the podcast here (it’s not long): http://gsabusiness.com/images/podcasts/Podcast%2007_30_08.mp3

Here’s a question I wanted to pose to the group that arose after I listened to Marsha talk about the business model she’s used since she started her PR business in 1990: Does pay for performance pricing work?

Marsha claims traditional retainer models are outdated and don’t give clients what they really want, which is ROI. She states her ‘pay for performance’ model means she only receives payment for media coverage she helps generate for clients (she didn’t discuss if she implemented other PR tactics, such as speakers’ bureaus, event planning, etc. or how she’s paid for those projects).

I think it’s important to distinguish that Marsha never claims to guarantee media coverage, rather that she’s only paid for media coverage she helps to place for her clients.

I’ve always told clients to be wary of any PR person or firm who claims to guarantee media coverage, since ultimately it’s up to the editor or producer to decide what’s newsworthy and what’s not for their audience. And ‘pay for performance’ pricing models have always seemed a little foreign to me, since how do you account for the media outreach you do that doesn’t result in a bonafide media placement? What about all the media calls, e-mails, research, etc. you do that may not lead to a story (but you still did the work, nonetheless)?

But I’ve always challenged myself to be open to new ways of thinking and as a (relatively) new business owner, I’m always interested in learning about successful business models.

What do you think about pay for performance pricing plans? Does your firm implement one? How does it work?

Or, are you sticking with the traditional retainer-based agreement that Marsha claims 95% of PR agencies still use? Do you think retainers are outdated, or is there still a place for them in this changing business landscape?

Listen to the podcast when you get a chance, and weigh in here with your insight. I’d love to learn some new ideas from the group.