October 2008

“Here’s a little somethin’ I would like to relate.
Any fish bite, you’ve got good bait.
I’m a-goin’ a-fishin’, yes, I’m a-goin’ a-fishin’,
I’m a-goin’ a-fishin’ too”
– Lovin’ Spoonful

Sea kittens at play

Those crazy kids over at PETA are at it again with a brand new — and pretty darned clever — promotional campaign.  Launched this week, “Save the Sea Kittens” is designed to persuade people — or more accurately young kids who then will nag/persuade their parents (something akin to groceries putting Cap’n Crunch on the bottom shelves in the cereal aisle — to stop catching, buying, cooking and/or eating fish.

Like renaming abortion as “Pro Choice” or “Baby Killing,” PETA uses as bait an innovative moniker to grab attention and invite us to learn more about this “new” species.  Once hooked (sorry, it’s just too easy — sorta like shooting fish, err, sea kittens in a barrel . . .), we — and our young children — are primed to fish around for more information.  And note that the artwork matches the storyline.  No nasty hammerhead sharks biting surfers’ legs off here.  Rather, we’re treated to a Nemo-like world filled with cute fish sporting big puppy dog — or more accurately, kitten — eyes.

All in all, a very well-conceived and well-executed PR program that will likely gain widespread attention for PETA and its platform.  And honestly, what else can one ask of a PR campaign?

On the downside, though, I’m now having a serious jones for a plate of sushi . . .

“Every generation throws a hero up the pop charts.”
– Paul Simon

What $31,000 can buy you these days

What $31,000 can buy you these days

If anyone ever doubts the cost-effectiveness of a well-executed strategic public relations program, just refer them to this piece from The Washington Post. From attending local funerals and interviews with Alaskan radio stations to the number two spot on the Republican ticket – in less than a year.   For $31,000.

Like her or not, Sarah Palin’s story is a flat-out amazing illustration of the power of personality and public relations.

“I’ve seen the needle and the damage done,
A little part of it in everyone.”
– Neil Young

Apple attacked by a worm named "Johntw"

Apple attacked by a worm named

Great.  This is exactly what we need right now.

Not only has the market (and our 401ks) being beaten to a bloody pulp by rampaging greed and rampant disregard for the most basic business ethics and fundamental rules of a civilized society, now our economic fortunes are under siege from stupid, mean-spirited twits who spread bogus rumors about companies like an eight-year-old spreads peanut butter on Wonder Bread.

On Friday, October 3, a “citizen journalist” (and boy howdy, do I use that term loosely . . .) posted a story on CNN’s iReport at 9 a.m. that Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs was rushed to the ER following a “severe heart attack.”  The post made its way onto Digg.com and Twitter.com within minutes.  By 9:25 a.m., an online magazine called Silicon Alley Insider had run the story.

Between 9:40 and 9:52 a.m., Apple’s stock dropped nine percent – that’s about $9 billion for anyone keeping score – before the company could deny the rumor.

Let’s run that back one more time.   Twelve minutes.  Nine billion dollars in value.

The Securities and Exchange Commission has said it will investigate the post by citizen blogger “Johntw,” and CNN is distancing itself from the incident saying the iReport post was neither vetted nor reported by CNN journalists.  (Of course, iReport.com still carries the CNN imprimatur and still invites bloggers to submit “Unedited.  Unfiltered.  News.”, but who’s keeping score?)

From BGO’s perspective, this situation is (or at least should be) unacceptable.

More to the point, such vigilante journalism that requires no accountability, responsibility or ethics is simply unhealthy.  For capitalism to work effectively over the long haul, investors, customers, regulators and the public at large must have accurate and objective information on which to make reasoned decisions. The unfettered free-for-all we have today at best breeds skepticism of everything and everyone; at worst, it breeds an economy based more on “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral” than Keynes, Smith or Friedman.

Shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater is just plain wrong whether at a Sunday matinee or on a “citizen journalist” Web site.  Reason and accountability must return to our media landscape if we hope to pull ourselves out of the financial death spiral we’re in right now.

Professionally trained journalists (and we counterparts on the public relations side) must play a key role in this effort.  Here’s hoping the Web-free-for-all pendulum swings back soon.

(OCT. 7 UPDATE:  Wired reports that “Johntw” likely could face criminal charges for last Friday’s morning gala.  Here’s hoping the what goes around comes around.)