AJR Spin Zone

A Blog for real PR and marketing pros (and students) to discuss client and agency-related challenges ... as well as random thoughts on the biz of spin. Should be fun. alec

Friday, February 11, 2005

Random thoughts …. PR Earning a seat at the CEO’s table

A lot of PR pros I respect (and that’s about a handful or two) talk about getting a seat at the table with CEOs and other C-level executives.

So, how do you “earn” a seat at the table, and more importantly why am I blogging on this!

On Tuesday, February 8, 2005 , The Wall Street Journal’s Marketplace section (which should be required daily reading for any serious PR pros) had an excellent article on their MBA track, lamenting the fact that B-school don’t teach communications and communications schools don’t teach business.

More importantly, because B-schools can’t quantify communications results, they basically overlook the field. Not al lB-schools, but most, and the trend is slowly moving away from that.

So to earn a seat at the table, you must speak the same language as the rest of those already there.

PR and communications professionals need to be able to understand how business works, that is, what are the pains / concerns CEOs, marketing directors or CIOs have, what keeps them up at night, what do they need to do to make next quarter’s numbers or thus year’s bonus.

My short list (not all, but from a stream of caffeine induced consciousness):

  • Understand industry trends, both macro and micro trends affecting the economy and your client’s industry
  • Be able to communicate those trends to help your CEO client capitalize on them
  • Add value, not BS
  • Understand basic financials from terms to quarterly reports
  • Commit to and promise to deliver ROI that is measurable, not just PR by the pound (amount of clips, as to me that is a useless metrics)
  • Read. Read and Read some more. If you don’t already jet the WSJ, get it yesterday.

I’ve been reading the WSJ for nearly 20 years (I don’t own stock in Dow Jones) and I can tell you, it gives you a “professional edge,” as this is what your CEO clients are reading

However, just reading the WSJ and trade press won’t do it alone, but that will give you a huge lead over the rest of the PR folks, and it may just get you a seat at the table.

Over the years I’ve had a seat at the table with the likes of Steve Ballmer, Steve Jobs and many, many senior executives from Fortune 500 and Inc 500 firms.

final thoughts: getting a seat at the table also adds a lot of cash to your pay check

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Questions For Alec Rosen

From time to time I get requests from students asking questions about PR:

Now that I have a blog, I will post the Q's as well as the A's

Questions For Alec Rosen

Why did you choose the PR field?
I didn’t choose PR, so much as find it -- especially after fits and starts in other areas including four years in the Navy and a job as mechanic, and a year spent backpacking across Europe in the early 80s.

After military service I entered college and majored in international business and Spanish Lit. After college I was working as an informational analyst for major oil company and then got a job in the PR department of another oil company.

After leaving the oil industry, I started my PR career in earnest when I was hired by Burson-Marsteller’s Miami office.

2. How does AJR define a target public? Do you believe that one exists? And if so how do you segment it?

Target public has many meanings: do you mean AJR’s target market or our client’s target audience ….

AJR targets mid-market technology firms, although we count Microsoft as one of our clients, as well as early-stage start-up firms. Companies should understand their target markets and excel at it, that is what we do.

A client always has a target audience.. .certain people buy BMWs other only Fords, and not every car decision is predicated by purchasing power. (we own a BMW and a Mustang)

In order to segment a client’s audience, you need to understand what the company does, and understand its value proposition in order to properly market and segment the company both horizontally and vertically to its target markets

3. On your website it states: To make an impact on the customer, we start the communications process by analyzing your company, competitors and market in order to develop the strategic and creative ideas that will form the cornerstone of our communications campaigns.
How important is it for your client to understand the “market” that they are in? Because I get the feeling sometimes as a consumer, representing several different demographics, that some companies don’t understand the market/field that they are in. How do you help them discover what it this is? Is the research conducted quantitative research or non-quantitative? Do survey’s help

It’s critical to understand the target audience in order to properly target them (there is no 100% solutions, but you can come close)

For example: for a business-to-business market (company A sells stuff to company
“B” you need to understand the needs of “B”. -- with business software
solutions, who is the decision maker at “B”, what keeps him/her up at
night worrying about the business, is it greater IT functionality and scalabilty
(i.e. the CIO) or is better financial management through cross-functional
real-time reporting i.e. the CFO or CEO. Or is it the sales clerk that
does not want to re-enter data from sales forms to accounting systems --

Once you know this, you can customize key messages and PR / marketing material that speaks to their needs.

On the other hand, if you are marketing a consumer product, such as an MP3 player, it’s a different ballgame, and you need to know the psychographics of the target consumer, for example:

  • Age
  • Sex
  • Income
  • What kind of car they like (minis or Volvos – my guess, Mini)
  • Activities – are they couch potatoes or like rollerblading
  • So and so forth.

    Is any research conducted outsourced?

    Sometimes, but we use primary and secondary research, such as can be found online

    5. Public Relations is defined by most as “publicizing an organization or individuals image” where as Marketing and Advertising are about the product. How do you draw the line between these three fields? Many people get confused and use the terms interchangeably.

PR is “earned media” based on third-party credibility, that is other people i.e. the media, saying how great you are.

Advertising is “paid media” based on what you say about yourself in a 30-second spot or full-page ad.

Public Relations

PR is art of influencing the behavior of a targeted audience through the credibility of others. This media is “earned,” as the client / agency needs to “sell” the story idea to a third party, such as an editor, who in turn will write / produce an objective story about you.

The ultimate goal of PR is to change attitudes and behavior or perceptions about the client via the positive nature of third-party credibility infused with the client’s key messages. One good story in the influential Wall Street Journal is worth a year’s ad buy in the same publication, because of the credibility factor inherent in the paper’s editorial coverage.

In PR you do not “own” the content (story), but can influence it through key messages and positioning and a proactive PR campaign.


Advertising is the art of creating a change in behavior, attitude or perception about a product / company, based on what you say about it yourself. Because you “own” the space, the 30-second ad or full-page ad, you own the content.

For advertising to be successful it requires frequency and reach, besides good creative. Frequency is the number of times your ad runs and reach is the amount of people who will see it.

Other than the Super Bowl, people don’t really talk about ads they have seen, especially in trade journals, but they will discuss a well written thoughtful article, and even e-mail it to others.

6. How important is it for a Public Relations professional to focus on the Latin Market, specifically your work in helping Microsoft establish a presence in this area?

A company like MS is a global player and therefore focuses on a global market place, but also has programs and people in most markets. The most successful PR people, in my opinion, can work easily in multiple markets and across various industries. This is not a function of good PR education, as it is a function of a good business background, such as B-school or MBA. International markets of course require knowledge of other markets, but the principles still apply – basic business and marketing principles.

Latin America is a big market, but then again so is the US.

And how important is it for me as a college student venturing into this field to be aware of the strong, if not domineering presence of the power and influence of the Latin market? You should be aware of all international markets, as we are in a global economy.

The Latin market is big, but not a domineering presence or power except in certain commodities and in certain geo-markets such as South Florida.

Brazil and Mexico are huge markets, especially for US companies ranging from Microsoft to GM, but individually, neither one is as big as the California market expressed as GDP.

Outside of South Florida and a few other places (NY for banking), LATAM is just another international market – an important one, but put it into perspective

7. What has been AJR & Partners greatest Success?


8. Greatest failure?

Don’t see failures, just lessons to learn from, everyday I learn something new, try something new

9. What do you look for in an employee?

Right now, my business model is predicated on outsourcing work to PR freelancers. But I look for people who have a better head for Business than PR. That is, can you read and understand a balance sheet, can you understand the interrelationship between the concerns of the CEO, CFO, CIO and the marketing or sales manager. Can you spot trends in a client’s industry and help them capitalize on them. Just writing press releases and knowing some media contacts, does not add value to a CEO, and if that is all someone can do, it will keep them at the bottom rungs of PR.

10. I told you a definition of PR earlier, what is your personal definition of the field, after all the things you have accomplished so far?

Modifying behavior and changing perceptions through targeted communications.

Thank you so much for your time and I wish you continued success!
-Millia Jimerson

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

AJR issues a press release for AJR Spin Zone

Welcome to AJR Spin Zone.

Why did I issue a release on this?

Because I want people to come and read my blog, otherwise I wouldn’t bother to write one. A press release disseminates information to a wide audience and is what I do for a living. (PR that is).

AJR’s Spin:

I am a marketing and PR professional, and not a professional blogger. I don’t know the proper etiquette of the blogosphere about self promotion, or the proactive marketing of a blog beyond the search engines, nor will I make any apologies for promoting this blog as I would any client’s company or product.

All I can ask is that you read it and comment with your posts, including the good, bad and the ugly ….


Sound bites (a small sample)

Tonight President Bush gave his state of the union address, and here is the key soundbite that we will see repeated in the coming days. While, there were many others, this one imparts a powerful key message and will drive debate on both sides of this issue, hence, a great soundbite.

afterall, shouldn't a soundbite drive and support your client's key messages:

“Save Social Security.”
George W Bush

As PR pros, we know that soundbites are very powerful and can impart ideas, themes or corporate positions. They are usually more complex than the examples on this page

Some favorite soundbites I use in media training with corporate executives, to illustrate how important it is to speak in plain common language or the use of simple phrases to communicate complex ideas.

These soundbites also illustrate the diminishing capacity for people to remember more than a few words.

“Wrong war.”
John Kerry

“Evil Doers”
George W Bush

“Count every vote”
Al Gore

“I did not have sex with that woman.”
Bill Clinton

“Read my lips.”
George Bush (I)

“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall”
Ronald Regean

“I have a dream.”
MLK, Jr.

“Make love, not war.”
60’s protestors

“Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”

“Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears; I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him. The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones; So let it be with Caesar.”

Feel free to add to this list, powerful soundbites that impart ideas, that we can use to help our CEO clients to get the concept of soundbites that drive key messages


Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Dot Com Super Bowl and the role of PR

Forbes.com has posted an interesting story on several dot-com companies that advertised on the Super Bowl in 2000 or the Bubble Bowl. So much for advertisers, but what role did PR play: what were those days like in PR.?

I kept a journal of my PR experience from the late 1990s through mid 2000, covering what happend in Miami, NY and Silicon Valley, as I was in all three places for extended periods of time.

It’s basically an unpublished and unpolished book, full of my thoughts and doubts and the greed of the era. The following are experts from my not yet published book (see post Feeding the PR Machine for the outline)

PR gold rush 1997-1999

Working in a major PR agency (Edelman PR as a VP in their Miami office) during this period I sat at ground zero during the heady times of excess and extreme of dot-com PR. Endured meetings with 20-somethings that thought they were going to change the world become rich beyond their dreams and all they needed to do it was a PR-driven strategy to drive the IPO.

These were the days that a successful media tour in New York ended with a trip to Tiffany’s so the client could look at what they were going to buy after they went public.

These were the days that budgets went from $10-15,000 per month to $30-40,000 plus per month and even higher in New York and California. Many times these companies had no clients, no product and no hope for success. In fact, many times the only true product they had were the press releases we were creating and pushing out over PR Newswire or Business Wire.

Sometime in the middle of the PR dot-com gold rush I realized my clients were full of shit and I started to question what the hell I am doing helping these morons get rich, when I should be worrying about my own family. Morons from HomePoint.com or LearningPays.com or from GoCo-op.com or from e-food.com. All former clients of mine and all morons who had no clue what the hell was happening to them and around them.

Later on during the boom I used my business and economics background to realize that most of their business plans were not worth the paper they were printed on. However, that did not stop me from taking my clients money. As with lawyers, everyone is entitled to representation as long as they can afford it, even OJ had his dream team, and so it was with many dot-coms with their dream team of PR hacks.

To understand the hype of the New Economy we first have to understand that The New Economy hype is not so new after all. Without turning this into an economic treatise there were many other periods of time where the good hard working people thought they were living in a new economy and the hype created by government, media and the markets forced rationale people to do irrational things. Like piss money away down a rabbit hole.

Of all the books I read in business school, one of the best, which was not even required reading, was the Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds by Charles Mackay written in 1841, which examined crowd psychology including investments, an example:

“All economic movements, by their very nature are motivated by crowd
psychology. Graphs and business ratios are of course indispensable … I have always thought that if in the lamentable era of the New Economics ... even in the presence of dizzily spiraling prices, we had all continuously repeated ‘two and two still make four,’ much of the evil might have been averted.”

What is interesting is his use of the term New Economics and the fact that he was alluding to role of the public and media to use common sense in how it viewed the markets. If only the hosts of CNBC and all those celebrity CEOs and their hired PR hacks did the same in the late 1990s we too may have avoided much economic pain in 2000.