Specialists Outflank Daily Newspapers


Each morning, I walk outside and pick up my copy of The Miami Herald, rescuing it from my driveway after its morning skid along the asphalt.  Sometimes I wonder how many dinosaurs like me remain, actual subscribers who read the print edition of a daily newspaper.  Except for the Sunday edition, which still has some heft, the Herald continues to thin.
Experts and novices alike have been waiting to “call the body” on dailies like the Herald for more than a decade.  But the publication lives on, as do dozens of other “major” dailies around the country.  Not only are the metro dailies thinner, but the long-term revenue model appears untenable (has for years).  And a daily newspaper has to be the “least green” product imaginable – it’s made from trees and is usually obsolete a few minutes after it hits your stoop.
While the advertising model is a monster challenge and the printing costs are exorbitant, what I believe is truly grinding down dailies is their continuing effort to try to be media generalists.  Papers like the Herald cover national news, the crime beat, entertainment and food, fashion, sports, neighborhood happenings, and on and on.  If I tried to get venture capital funding for a business that wanted to cover all these areas on a metro level, I would get laughed out of the room.  Speaking to my friend and really smart marketing guy Carlos Blanco about this, he was cold-bloodedly forthright: “The Internet killed the generalists.”  My take: He’s right and the big dailies don’t know it or can’t seem to admit it.
Meanwhile, the specialists soar.
One of the breakout stars of the 2012 election coverage was a wonky blogger named Nate Silver.  His FiveThirtyEight.com blog was licensed for publication by the New York Times, and for the final weeks of the campaign, his polling prognostications were like “must see TV.”  Friends on Facebook were checking his blog several times a day with cult-like verve.  Silver is the ultimate media specialist.  His Wikipedia bio calls him “an American statistician, sabermetrician, psephologist, and writer.”  I don’t even need to look those up; certainly, he’s no generalist.  A couple days after the election, Silver appeared on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart!”  (Watch it here).  I’m guessing this was the first time Stewart featured a psephologist (which is an expert in the study and scientific analysis of elections – OK, so I did look it up).
For local stories, specialists triumph too.
One of the biggest “Miami” stories in recent memory is the saga of Ponzi schemer and ne’er-do-well former University of Miami booster Nevin Shapiro.  Yahoo Sports first reported his exploits, which allegedly included supplying cash and prostitutes to football players.  Somehow, a gifted specialist working for the editorial side of a flagging search engine swooped-in and scooped the Miami Herald on one of its most-prized beats.
Another big story, the steroid scandal involving Major League Baseball players, more UM athletes and others, was first reported by Miami’s New Times, a paper with the main goals of muckraking and entertainment coverage.
And it’s not just here.  Do you think daily reporters in Chicago and South Bend, Indiana were happy to see Notre Dame football player Manti Te’o’s story break on DeadSpin.com?  Aside from learning the wacky details of the fake girlfriend, I was surprised to read that several members of the team of specialists from the Gawker.com-owned DeadSpin were actually interns.
Back home, generalist daily publications like the Herald are trying to cover subjects as varied as the Everglades, county hall, Castro, condos, Art Basel, the Heat and the humidity.  It’s an impossible mandate because the reporters, regardless of their talent, don’t have the time to cover all of these areas well.  And if they dig-in on one topic, they will have to leave another unguarded – and that’s when the specialists will jump in and eat their lunch.
I’m not sure what the answer is for metro dailies.  They face tremendous institutional pressure to be the catch-all media outlets in their markets.  Sadly, I don’t think it will necessarily be printing costs that lead to their ultimate demise.  As long as metro dailies remain “masters of none,” the specialists will continue to siphon-off their readers and their revenue.

Do you still get a daily newspaper delivered to your home or business?  Let me know.  And to see other blogs from top Florida marketing minds, visit www.marketinggroupie.com



Author: John P. David

How a $50-Per-Article Blogger Can Damage Your Brand


Last week, a blogger for a national news website wrote a hit piece on one of my clients.  Without getting into the details, the story was riddled with a nasty mix of inaccuracies, poor reporting and marginal grammar – as well as a number of typos. My client is in an industry that is no stranger to attacks, but this one was particularly troubling not because of the message — but because of the medium. 

One of the downsides to the Internet’s democratization of journalism is that nearly anyone can act like a journalist.  While this is a tough reality for actual journalists and PR people alike, the economics make it even rougher.  As we dug into the background of this particular blogger, we learned that she was a fairly new contributor to the outlet, and we also found out how she was compensated.  In black and white on the organization’s website, I read (I swear in genuine horror), that this blogger was probably paid about $50 for the article.  For fifty bucks of short-shrift work, she did harm to my client’s brand. 

At a mere fifty dollars per article, one is automatically incentivized to produce quantity over quality and therefore good writing, actual reporting and solid journalism get lost.

If you write one article a day, that means you earn $250 per week – which is less than minimum wage if it takes you all day to do it.  One can only assume that bloggers for publications like this are pumping out as much content as they can each week — grammar and accuracy be damned.

Later that same day, I had coffee with another PR professional, and we had a conversation about crisis communications.  Of course, we talked about Carnival and its poop cruise, but I decided to add in my recent experience with the fifty dollar blogger.

Naturally, cruise ship fiascos, product tamperings and kids in harm’s way are the most read-about PR crises.  But I suggest that almost every high profile company should have a plan in place to not only deal with possible human tragedy but also Web journalism miscues.

What is a PR crisis anyway?  Does it have to be as big as Carnival, Lance Armstrong or Penn State?   For example, I believe that when a business has to lay off 50 people, that’s a crisis.  If an employee is victim of a random act of violence, that’s also a crisis. 

If an under-compensated blogger inaccurately rips your brand with a piece that gets syndicated nationally, then guess what, you have a crisis on your hands too.

What to do about it
Keep a lookout.  If you aren’t already monitoring your company’s media coverage through Google alerts and other web searches, hop to it.  Make sure you do everything you can to see coverage of your company the moment it hits.

Articles can be corrected.  Fortunately for the client I mentioned earlier, we reached out to the outlet and they made a number of meaningful corrections.  Pre-Internet, you had to live with errors and fight publishers for a correction.  Today, web-based publications can make changes after the fact, so the offending copy doesn’t have to live online forever.

Figure out who to complain to.  This can be tough.  We had a similar issue with a blogger a few years ago, and I truly felt helpless.  If you are dealing with a well-known publication, then you will have a better chance of securing changes.  If not, you have to find your way to the original author and make your case.

Take the right tone.  Lay out your options and consider your tone before deciding to “rip ‘em a new one.”  Most reporters want their stories to be accurate, so I believe in taking a softer approach.  A strategy that includes pointing out inaccuracies and incorrect inferences usually works better than harshly demanding a correction.

Get legal, if you absolutely have to.  Honestly, this is a last resort in my opinion.  In many instances, reporters make mistakes but it’s rare for them to break the law.  Believe me, some reporters are unethical and slippery, but I have never had a client sue one.


This and That.  If you like learning about marketing from some of Florida’s top advertising, branding and marketing minds, check out a new e-paper called Florida Marketing Groupie.  We just launched it.  Subscribe (it’s free) and I’ll be your best friend.

Have you ever been burned by a blogger?  Is any PR a good thing, as long as they spell your name right?  Let me know what you think.



Author: John P. David

Write The Book On It

Writing a business book offers many marketing opportunities: It adds credibility, speeds-up the author’s chances to be a media source and creates a marketing platform.  If you add-in that publishing your own book has never been easier and that we typically hold authors in high regard, it clearly makes sense to be the one who “wrote the book” on a topic.

Right now, I know several executives who are either writing or have finished books on subjects as diverse as small business loans, branding, IRAs, cruise line safety and financial planning.    

Be the Expert
While there are millions of books on the market, your category may still be open.  For example, my friend and client Chris Hurn of Mercantile Capital Corporation wrote his book “The Entrepreneur’s Secret to Creating Wealth” about a little known U.S. Small Business Administration loan program which helps small business owners grow their wealth by owning, rather than renting, their commercial property.  Hurn was already regarded as a media source on SBA “504” loans, but publishing the book cemented him as the leading expert.  He also has effectively boxed out his competitors, who may have thought about writing a book but are now likely discouraged.

Friend and branding expert Bruce Turkel has written two books: “Brain Darts: The Advertising Design of Turkel Schwartz & Partners” and “Building Brand Value: Seven Simple Steps to Profitable Communications.”  When I asked him about the benefit of writing his books, one of his first answers was credibility.  “They’re the best business cards ever designed as they provide almost instantaneous credibility,” he said.  Turkel has spoken about branding around the world and has recently been a guest on a number of cable news shows.  Being an author is another valuable line on his resume.

Another client is working on a book for the reasons mentioned above but also because it will help differentiate him from his competitors.  If you are in a business with an 800-pound gorilla, then writing the book offers a way to be viewed as an expert despite the long shadow of a competitor.  I recently advised a young entrepreneur to consider writing a book about her nascent industry.  While her market isn’t crowded, one major competitor secures a big share of the publicity.  If the new kid on the block can “write the book,” then she has a credential that can be used to differentiate her company from the more established competitor.

Marketing Platform
For Mercantile’s Hurn, his book has been the cornerstone of his company’s marketing in 2013.  He has done a number of local and national television appearances since his book was published last October as well as dozens of radio interviews to go along with blog mentions and other press coverage.  Hurn talks about his book but also the commercial real estate market, and his company gets a favorable mention too.  And for his PR team, the credential of being an author adds to the strength of media pitches.

Education Curve
Upon further discussion with Turkel, I learned of yet another benefit.  Your book can educate your prospects and directly aid your sales process.  “If our clients or potential clients read the books and use our nomenclature when they’re discussing branding, it makes it much easier for them to understand what we’re talking about and to hire us,” said Turkel.  Just imagine the value of a prospect “already speaking your language” before you even start your sales pitch.

“Amazon Democracy”
While the actual act of writing a book hasn’t gotten any easier, getting published certainly has.  I call it “Amazon Democracy.”  A quick search online will find dozens of book publishers who can not only help you write your book  but also secure distribution through Amazon.com and other online booksellers.  Getting into brick and mortar bookstores still remains a challenge, but sadly those companies have their own issues to contend with.

Let me know if you are interested in writing a book for marketing purposes.  While I haven’t written mine yet, I have heard a lot of war stories and can probably help you avoid some pitfalls.

Both Hurn and Turkel are active bloggers and social media heavyweights.  Visit Hurn’s Amazon.com page at http://www.amazon.com/Chris-Hurn/e/B0096D6PWY, read his blog at www.504blog.com and follow him on twitter at @thechrishurn.

Visit Turkel’s Amazon.com page at http://www.amazon.com/Bruce-Turkel/e/B004SH42WS, read his blog at http://turkeltalks.com and follow him on twitter at @BruceTurkel.



Author: John P. David

Is Tim Tebow the Next Anna Kournikova?

With football season coming to a close and no games until the Super Bowl Feb. 3rd, I decided to fill the void with a conversation about fame and football.  So let’s take a moment and discuss one of the most polarizing individuals in professional sports and the most famous third-string quarterback in NFL history.  Of course, I’m speaking of Tim Tebow.

After a storied college football career at the University of Florida (my alma mater), winning two national titles and a Heisman Trophy, Tim Tebow was controversially selected in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos.  Along with his football skills, Tebow brings an ardent following of fans that are drawn to his persona as a clean-cut athlete and a good Christian.  Reports even suggest he is (cue gasp) a virgin.  Despite only playing a few games during his first year with the Broncos, he led the NFL in jersey sales and quickly became a nationwide fan favorite.  He steered Denver to a playoff win during his second season, but was later traded to the New York Jets and spent most of the recent season riding the bench.

Tebow’s a controversial guy.  Fans love him, but because he’s a poor practice player who seems to prefer running over passing, many analysts believe (some vociferously) he can’t be an NFL quarterback.  Some say he too overtly wears his religious beliefs on his sleeve.  Some people just don’t like him. Today, it appears that the Jets will release him, and his NFL career is in question.  Rumors abound that he may end up with any of a half dozen teams next year or possibly in the Canadian Football League.

I wonder what will become of Tebow and his brand.  Has he already had his 15 minutes of fame?  Will his off-the-field image continue to outweigh his on-field performance?  Has Tim Tebow’s fame actually hurt his football career?  And, can we compare him to any other public figures in recent memory?  Following are few possible scenarios for how we might see him in the future:

He’s Anna Kournikova
A Russian tennis star with supermodel looks, Anna Kournikova has been a gossip column and entertainment page regular for years.  While she packs a mean serve and volley, the blond and beautiful athlete is typically referred to as one of the most popular tennis stars who never won a singles tournament.  She will always be famous, but less for how she played the game than how she looked doing it.

He’s Kris Humphries (Mr. Kim Kardashian for 72 days)
An NBA power forward, Humphries burst onto the celebrity scene when he started dating and then quickly married reality television “A-Lister” Kim Kardashian.  Though they split after 72 days, Humphries was one of the few NBA players who was more famous for who he was married to than for his prowess on the basketball court.  While not a hall of famer, Humphries remains a pretty good NBA player, but he will always be known as a hoops star who married into mega-fame.

He’s Sarah Palin
The one-time governor of Alaska, hockey mom, reality show star and vice presidential candidate rocketed to the front page when John McCain named her as his running mate in his 2008 campaign for president.  A risky selection due to a lack of experience and questionable (and unvetted) political decisions, Palin remains both a conservative darling and frequent liberal target.  Despite her many detractors and the ease at which she is mocked by writers on Saturday Night Live (“I can see Russia from my house”), some still consider the popular Republican Palin a viable, future presidential candidate.

He’s Jeremy Lin
Cue “Linsanity!”  Professional basketball player Jeremy Lin became one of the biggest stars of the 2011-12 NBA season despite being virtually unknown when it began.  A Harvard grad who spent most of his NBA career in the developmental league, he burst on the scene after a series of injuries pushed him up the New York Knicks depth chart.  Lin became the first NBA player to score at least 20 points and have seven assists in each of his first five starts.  His play during 26 games captivated New York and the nation for a period of several weeks, so-called Linsanity.  The New York Times called him the Knicks’ most popular player in a decade.  Despite his success last season and a big contract from the Houston Rockets, some still believe he is merely a bench player.

Based on my expertise from listening to too much sports radio, I think Tebow will still be in the NFL next year but not with the Jets.  His brand will endure, but he needs to land with a team that can handle his off-the-field fame and also give him a chance to raise his game to the level of his celebrity.

What do you think?



Author: John P. David

Sex, the Inauguration and a PR Blindside

The presidential inauguration took on new meaning in our little corner of the world last week when President Obama’s inaugural committee named Richard Blanco the inaugural poet.  Richard’ brother, Carlos, works from an office down the hall and is both a friend and client.  While I know little about poetry and even less about Richard (I have never met him), I plan to watch the inauguration to hear what the “other Mr. Blanco” has to say.  Media coverage of Richard’s sexual orientation has also raised some hackles.

Richard was born in Madrid and raised in Miami.  He worked as an engineer before earning a Master in Fine Arts in Creative Writing at Florida International University (this is big news for FIU, too) and has earned many poetry-world accolades for his work.  Now living in Maine, he was, indeed, plucked from relative obscurity and named the inaugural poet.  He’s Hispanic, spent his formative years in a state crucial to presidential candidates and, as no news outlet has failed to mention, gay.

The prominence given to this aspect of Richard’s life has been a subject of conversations between his brother and me.  When a local television station interviewed him about his brother, Carlos said all the right things: “We’re thrilled for him and proud …”  However, the station chose to produce a segment that included some Miami musicians also   participating in the inauguration.  The musicians happen to be gay as well, so the reporter decided that would be his angle.  Carlos was taken aback by the coverage asking: Why is this “a gay thing?”  Here’s a link to the segment, also embedded below if you want to pass your own judgment. http://www.nbcmiami.com/news/local/South-Florida-Musicians-Poet-To-Appear-at-President-Obamas-Second-Inauguration-186258042.html

As a public relations consultant, I wasn’t surprised.  While you can deliver the perfect message points to a journalist, you have no control over what they will ultimately write or broadcast.  In addition, in the news biz, one uncommon instance of something may be deemed “interesting,” but two uncommon instances become a “trend.”  Reporting on Miami gays (plural) at the inauguration was too tantalizing for this particular journalist.  When the musicians in the segment offered sound bytes that aligned with the reporter’s angle, the story became about sexual orientation at the D.C. ceremony and not talented individuals at the inauguration.

Preventing a Blindside
What happened to Carlos and Richard is difficult (sometimes impossible) to prevent, but you can try.  As I mentioned earlier, one of the things you give up when offering an interview to a reporter is control over what is ultimately printed or broadcast.  If a reporter is sloppy, unprofessional or maybe just not that good at their job, you can get a result that you don’t like.  Frankly, I think instances of journalists doing wildly dramatic stories for the sake of ratings are rare – usually confined to political and entertainment reporting.  Here are a few things to consider so you don’t get blindsided:

Develop Message Points and Practice
I don’t advocate scripted interviews, but preparation of main message points and practicing possible tough questions prevent a lot of grief.  Think about two or three main points that you want to convey in an interview and write them down.  Review them before your interview, and if it’s a phone interview, have them in front of you.  We also recommend thinking about possible questions which might make you stumble or trip you up (PR people are usually good at helping with these).  In most cases, if you know how to answer the toughest questions, the others are easy.

Avoid Distractions
I have seen instances when people lost their train of thought during an interview and even completely forget what they said to a reporter.  Remember, you are always “on the record,” so try to avoid distractions.  If doing a phone interview, sit in your office with the door closed, computer monitor turned off and your phone on vibrate.  Focus on the moment and keep your message points in front of you  (This tip is doubly important for anyone who gets nervous during interviews).

Take it Seriously
While it is OK to make small talk with a reporter, be sure to keep it serious – don’t try too hard to be funny.  Humor cuts tension but when dealing with a reporter who doesn’t know you, it can be a recipe for disaster.  While you needn’t be stiff, being serious helps prevent you from saying something that can be misperceived.

Set Some Ground Rules
If a topic was reported incorrectly in the past or if reporters tend to get it wrong or miss the nuance, feel free to set some ground rules – carefully.  For Carlos, this might mean telling reporters, before an interview, that he has been disappointed in prior coverage because reporters focused heavily on his brother’s sexual orientation.  He can tell reporters that, while he can’t stop them from reporting the facts, he would prefer it if the story focused on his brother’s talents and this accomplishment first and foremost.  Most reporters that I know, and I know hundreds, would take that into consideration.

Don’t Go “Off the Record”
While I sat-in on many interviews where sources went “off the record” to their advantage, I generally don’t recommend it.  The simplest tactic is to treat everything you say to a reporter as on the record.  If you don’t want a reporter to know something, don’t say it.  Most reporters honor “off the record” information, but placing the burden on the reporter makes a blindside (even an inadvertent one) more likely.

This and That
Just for curiosity’s sake, I checked to see if you could buy tickets for the swearing-in or other inaugural events on Stubhub.  Because most of the events are free, Stubhub’s site says it won’t offer them for sale.  Craigslist and EBay share no such ethical commitment as tickets there have been fetching as much as $2,000 apiece.
When not shooting the bull about his brother, Carlos has his fingers in a number of entrepreneurial endeavors.  He is one of the principals of ER Texting, a company that enables hospital emergency rooms and urgent care centers to offer wait times via text message.  He also recently started Aftermath which offers post-divorce services in a one-stop, online environment, helping with everything from getting a new passport to properly dividing retirement accounts.  

Be sure to tune in to the inauguration on Monday to hear Richard’s poem.  We will have it on at our office in the Dadeland area if you want to stop by.  Coffee’s on me.

Do you have any tips on how to prevent a PR blindside?  Please feel free to share them.


Author: John P. David