Monday, August 24, 2009

Leave it to Maxim to show how make a joke replying to the press

When I ran the PR show at Maxim for many years, we perfected the art of using a sense of humor about some of the very silly questions we were asked by the press.

I wrote about this in July 2008 because so many publicists seem to forget to use a sense of humor defusing certain a situation. Of course, you have to read the scenario right when making a joke, which when employed successfully, can take the air out of some real trivial pursuits, often in the celebrity sphere.

Sometimes the more ridiculous a query, the more ridiculous a response is warranted. Why? In England, they call it "taking the piss" out of something. I like to say it's taking the air out of the balloon. It subtly signals to the reporter a few things: 1) you've got a sense of humor about the whole inane thing, 2) you're treating it with it proper due, and 3) you're not giving them the same old convenient "no comment." In an unspoken way, you are both in on "the joke." You are also telegraphing to the readers, "This is silly and you know it too, so let's have a laugh and move on."

So my hats off to my former freelancer and now head of Maxim PR Nora Haynes for picking the right spot in Sunday's NY Daily News to wield the joke axe.

The set-up: entrants in Maxim's "Hometown Hotties" contest lodged a complaint (through the Daily News gossip columnists Rush and Molloy, of course) that 15% of the semi-finalists were never posted on the magazine's web site for voting. Scandal! This is "serious" stuff, folks, so Nora shot back not one but two zingers in the papers.

In explaining that the editors like a couple of candidates who entered too late to post their videos on the web site, she said: "The newfangled Internet moves much faster than our pterodactyl-powered Flintstones printing press."

The clincher for me was her closer: "We did use the same electronic voting machines as Ohio did in the 2004 election. So we fully expect George W. Bush will be our next Hometown Hottie winner."

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Great Twitter Babble Experiment

I knew there was a lot of pointless babble on Twitter long before the news broke about it last week. It's just that Pearanalytics put a percentage on it (40% of tweets are "pointless babble").

I began my Great Twitter Babble Experiment at the end of June when it dawned upon me that people seemed to follow other people for no particular reason. I saw a few of these mystery travelers following me on Twitter, so I went to check their feeds and it was a mixture of spam and stream of conscious gobbledygook.

Combining that examination with the herd mentality that follows Ashton Kutcher and others, an idea formed: I would create three feeds devoted to utter nonsense, and see who would take the time to follow them.

I would use no hash marks on my tweets or bookmarks to the feeds.

Here were my three new Twitter accounts: badacne, noanchovies, and itchingpowder. I started each one with a complete no-brainer line about the title topic, cast my lines into the big Twitter ocean and we'd see who would bite. Every few weeks, I'd put up another vacuous tweet.

The hands down winner was badacne, which roped in 16 followers, most of which were hawking beauty and skin products, with a few offering me riches working from home.

I am sad to report that both noanchovies and itchingpowder lured a mere three each.

Perhaps when they say "the great unwashed masses," they were referring to a much larger population trolling through the Twitter landscape.

I guess preventing fish on your pizza is a pretty simple request, and itching powder is out of the Twitter age range. Even the spammers who followed both of those accounts were unrelated to fish, pizza, or practical jokes.

As they require in school, what were the conclusions I drew from my experiment?

1) No matter what you name your Twitter feed, no matter how obscure the reference, if you have not been spammed at least once, you're not official.

2) Anybody can follow anybody, no matter what silliness they write.

3) There's a huge market for skin care solutions on the Internet.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

My first article for BNET -- "The Real ROI of the Press Release"

My first article for CBS Interactive's BNET site just went live, so I wanted to share it with you.

"The Real ROI of the Press Release"


Monday, August 10, 2009

Good Morning America's medical unit defense takes Professor Irwin Corey Award #3

ABC-TV's "Good Morning America" takes the third Professor Irwin Corey Award, given to institutions and people who make unusual choices of words -- sometimes the right ones, sometimes ones that don't make sense -- to communicate with the press.

GMA wins for its rebuttal to a University of Minnesota professor's accusation that all the morning shows' medical reports are "dreadful, sensational, advocacy and hype that doesn't evaluate cost, doesn't evaluate evidence, and doesn't scrutinize the harms and the benefits."

The NY Post jumped all over this report (kind of ironic, huh?).

Professor Gary Schwitzer didn't hold back citing examples of morning show crimes, and for GMA, he lobbed up an April 9th segment "promoting an unapproved use of a $1,200 procedure to combat toenail fungus."

Good Morning America's spokesperson had this response for the Post which had big enough holes to throw a TV camera through: "Good Morning America is committed to providing the most timely and relevant medical reporting. Led by Dr. Tim Johnson, our medical unit is the best in the business and strives to make sense of the complicated health issues on the nation's agenda."

That's nice that the medical team's work is timely and relevant, but what about accuracy and thorough research? Whatever happened to the old cliche standby, "We stand by our work?"