Saturday, December 23, 2006

WMEAC Puts PR on Top

PR pros continue to argue that public relations is a management function that should report directly to the top, provide counsel to other management, and help make decisions as opposed to merely communicating them.

So I was happy to see that the West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC) had named a former PR professional as its new executive director. Rachel Hood, a former corporate community advocate for Metro Health who also has PR agency experience, was named to head WMEAC after the board sensed a need for a shakeup. What the organization needs more than anything is a better reputation and expanded relationships with various stakeholders in the region. Sounds like PR to me.

Good for WMEAC. Good for Rachel Hood. I hope she proves to others that a PR background is a natural proving ground for the top job in a nonprofit, or business or government organization.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Police Report!

Wow. The Grand Rapids Police Department has published an annual report. Good for them. Too many people still think annual reports are only issued by public corporations as a measure of accountability to stockholders. That's true. But the annual report is a major tool of public relations for all organizations--in the private, nonprofit, and public sectors. Annual reports are about both promotion and accountability. Or, to put in PR terms, annual reports help maintain mutual relationships with various publics.

The report is available online.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Bye Bye Barnaby

TV 8 is closing it's Battle Creek operations, and with that closure they've had to let go of some staff. Included in the layoffs is on-air personality Gerry Barnaby, a favorite among viewers for his humorous quirks and among PR pros for his agreeable nature and ability to handle a story that didn't always fit a hard news or beat category.

It will be interesting to see how hard TV 8 pushes "ABC 4" now that they don't have a physical presence in the community. This is where people need to be reminded that TV stations, like all media, are businesses. They need some public relations, community relations work in Battle Creek as they pull out. It's a nice gesture to leave their building in the cereal city to nonprofit Battle Creek Unlimited. But I hope TV 8 President and General Manager Diane Kniowski understands that even an outfit with lots of journalists on the payroll needs to consider its own public relations at times such as this. I once spoke to the National Broadcasters Asociation Community Affairs (NBACA) members. I'm available for counsel Diane....

Unleash Union Teachers

When teachers at Union High School "expressed frustration," to use the Grand Rapids Press headline, I thought they were on a good message.

Both in the Press and on other local media, these teachers were essentially saying the recent vandalism and other problems t the school were caused by a small minority of students and that it was ruining the education of the majority of students. My favorite quote was in a TV 8 interview where a teacher said, "we're here and we want to teach."

This followed the administration closing the school to clean up the vandals' mess. What was really messing though was the word that teachers were not to speak to the media. I say let them speak!

We have had nothing but bad news about the GR Public Schools for years. Now you have a group of teachers who are expressing their passion for teaching. Why stifle that? For one, basic transparency is a fundamental PR principle. But also, what a credible and positive commentary coming from these teachers. They're not complaining about contracts and benefits and other issues--they are saying they want to teach and that the majority of students want to learn. Good message.

Sure there was this "bad news" of vandalism. But like I tell my students, your reactions to the situations in life are more important than the situations themselves. The teachers' reaction was human and mostly positive. GR Public Schools should let the public see more of that.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Press Nutcracker Coverage Gets National Mention

From page D10 of today's Wall Street Journal:

""It's fun, it's traditional, and it pays the bills."

Lines such as this, from the Grand Rapids Press in a recent article by Jeffrey Kaczmarczyk, abound during December all across the country. The "it" is "The Nutcracker." And, at face value, anyone vaguely aware of the profusion of "Nutcracker" ballets presented in the U.S. this time of year readily understands such assertions."

Wow. I'm sure the Press is giggling over their coverage being picked up by a big national daily. Probably resulted from the WSJ reporter's quick Lexis-Nexis search for "nutcracker" for a story about the traditional performances across the country.
But still, to be mentioned in the Wall Street Journal! Must give chills to even the most jaded reporter.

But maybe they won't care...or notice. I recall a time that a story I pitched to the Press was ignored, only to get play in the Journal.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Mobile Marketing Award for Meijer

Kudos again to Meijer, once again.

The locally based mega retailer won a Mobile Marketing Award from Advertising Age and the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) for its "SmartReply" program that allowed customers who opted in to receive text message alerts about increases in gas prices. The idea was that customers could buy gas before the price increase. Too bad the program was only done in Indianapolis--perhaps they'll launch it in the local area soon.

If you don't subscribe to Advertising Age, you can read about Meijer's award and other interesting mobile marketing info in a free download of their 2006 Mobile Marketing Guide.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Google Guy Gives Goosebumps

I was attending a simultaneous meeting of Interchange to hear a colleague speak, so I couldn't attend the December 13 Ad Club event featuring Grady Burnett of Google. But it looks like I might not have found a chair--nearly 200 of you showed up.

Good thing the Grand Rapids Press covered the event. And, unlike TV 8 a few months ago, the Press gets that Google's outpost in Michigan is about advertising, not computer science. I get excited thinking about the possibilities.

Witness my earlier post about local ad pros perhaps setting the course for the industry in the future, as opposed to folks on either coast, and you see why I get excited about Google being in our state. Even though they don't plan a physical presence in West Michigan, a lot of our local pros and students have a good shot at getting involved in the next big things in advertising, whatever they turn out to be.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

USA Today Covers Zondervan

When USA Today Religion Writer Cathy Grossman was in town to speak to the WMPRSA, she hinted she was also in town to do a story about Christian retailing. No doubt Lambert, Edwards and Associates, who sponsored the WMPRSA lunch, had a hand in arranging the story that highlights their client, Zondervan.

Not only was this a nice national placement, the USA Today article of December 13 is a pretty solid overview of Zondervan's business. It also positions West Michigan as the capitol of Christian publishing.

I just wish Grossman had done a little more reporting about the dominant local religious flavor. Calling folks "Dutch Reform" is wrong in several ways. For one, it's ReformED. Saying it her way sounds like reform school or something. Also, the term Dutch is not part of the proper name of the two denominations popular here, the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRC) and the Reformed Church of America (RCA). Dutch may be an adjective, but it could have been clarified.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Amway and China

Amway is among the latest direct-selling firms to get a license to operate in China, according to the Wall Street Journal (subscription required).

I wonder if Governor Granholm will congratulate this Michigan company for extending its export potential into one of the world's fastest growing economies. Now that she's won the election, perhaps the governor can move on from political rhetoric to economic reality. The WSJ reports that Amway has 180,000 distributors in China. Those aren't 180,000 former Michigan jobs, however. They will be distributing products made in China, of course, but also many made right here in West Michigan.

Advertising Age predicts China will have a faster advertising growth than the U.S. in the coming year. It would be interesting to get a sense of how many other West Michigan companies are crossing the great economic wall and entering into the Chinese market. If your company is doing business, or plans to, in China, respond to this post or email me at the address above.