Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

May 2009 be free of economic freefall and bad PR.
Be well.
Be safe and we'll see you next year.--Editor

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sprint Ad Spending Soars

From "The Street":

Not all companies are slashing advertising spending. Sprint is on track to outspend its larger wireless rivals AT&T and Verizon this month in an effort to reverse its alarming subscriber losses.

The Overland Park, Kan., telco is buying three to four times as many TV ads in December than it normally buys in the summer months. And this week, Sprint will overtake top spender AT&T in the TV ad buying race, according to an analyst familiar with the industry's current advertising activity.

The surge in ad spending comes after Sprint swung to a loss in the third quarter on a 7% year-over-year decline in sales. The No. 3 wireless shop has lost nearly 4 million subscribers in the past year as disgruntled Nextel users tore up contracts and other carriers picked off customers with fancier phones like AT&T's Apple iPhone.

Last month, Sprint announced it was slashing costs, closing offices and offering buyouts to bring expenses in line with sagging sales.

The recent advertising push has attempted to put CEO Dan Hesse in the spotlight as a symbol of the new direction and leadership at Sprint.

Sprint has also been emphasizing its family calling plans and its lower prices to tailor its offering to a more cash-strapped customer in a faltering economy.

The move to the top of the telco TV ad buyers spending is not likely to be sustainable for Sprint, however. AT&T spends around $800 million on TV ads annually and No. 2 Verizon typically budgets around $650 million for TV ads. Sprint's annual ad budget is usually around $400 million.


Smart move. A down economy is no time to slash marketing--Sprint (and the telecom industry) already has enough problems. Fortune favors the brave, we say. An intelligent ad campaign centered on their steady leader, CEO Dan Hesse, is a smart strategic move--especially when they have been taking it on the chin from competitors for quite a while.

Disclosure: The editor of this blog owns shares in Sprint and is related to a Sprint employee.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Happy Holidays from Bernays Sauce

We'll be back shortly before the end of 2008, but in the meantime, whatever holiday you celebrate, we hope it's a great one. Be safe and have fun.--Editor

P.S. Now's the time to try out our great Béarnaise Sauce recipe, don't you think?

The Best and Worst Ads of 2008

Ah, the end of the year, when the "best and worst" lists are upon us. From the Wall Street Journal comes the "Best and Worst Ads of 2008." Here's one of the worst (and I happen to agree it was bad, as it was just plain too oblique):

Odd Couple
Client: Microsoft Corp.

Agency: Crispin Porter + Bogusky

Content: Microsoft shelled out about $10 million for pitchman Jerry Seinfeld and paired him with Bill Gates for a massive Windows ad campaign. In one spot, the pair shopped for shoes; in another, they bunked with a family.

Feedback: The much-anticipated ads were largely panned by viewers and ad experts. A Microsoft spokesman says, "The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about. We're thrilled."

Get the entire article here.

Have a best or worst local or national ad you'd like to nominate? The comments section is open.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Politico's "Top 10 Media Blunders" has come out with its list of the "Top Ten Media Blunders of 2008"--a fun read. Though these are political blunders (your Sauce editor is a bit of a political junkie), its instructive to see examples of ways the media can alter a message through their own mistakes or biases.


4) “Terrorist fist bump” and “baby mama”: Fox News, in one week last summer, twice took racially tinged shots at Michelle Obama. Host E.D. Hill apologized for calling the playful fist pound between the Obamas at the convention a “terrorist fist jab,” and then days later, the network placed an offensive chyron up next to the future First Lady: “Obama’s baby mama.”

Response: Hill’s contract wasn’t renewed when it expired in November, and the producer responsible for the “baby mama” line went to CNBC.

5) “Pimped out”: MSNBC’s David Shuster said that Chelsea Clinton was being “pimped out” by the campaign for calling superdelegates on her mother’s behalf. The Clinton camp and NBC executives became embroiled in a tense back-and-forth, with the Democratic contender threatening to withdraw from a network-sponsored debate.

Response: Shuster was suspended for a couple weeks, but the incident wasn’t a career setback. Just last week, MSNBC named Shuster host of “1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.”

Click here to read the entire story.

Friday, December 19, 2008

EventPros Garners KC Small Business Honor

We just found out that our firm, EventPros, is among the 2009 KC Small Business Magazine "25 Under 25" businesses in Kanasas City. We are very excited, especially on the heels of our nomination for the International Gala Award for KCRiverFest (we find out if we won that one Jan. 30 in San Diego).

Who says good things don't happen these days?

So...if you want some award-winning communications and special event services, give us a shout. We'd love to work with you.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Small Firms Being Studied for Acquisition

Attention small shop PR light special! Seriously, it is encouraging to see that not only is the public relations sector surving the recession, its growing. Any ideas as to why? More outsourcing due to corporate PR layoffs? Your comments and opinions welcome.


5W Public Relations, today announced intentions to make acquisitions, and aggressively pursue small PR agencies in 2009. The firm is currently in discussions with several firms. 5W Public Relations has quickly grown to be the nation's 21st largest independent firm since their founding in 2003.

"Thankfully, despite the tough economy, 2008 was a growth year for 5WPR as we continue to organically grow and mature. Given the state of the economy, as entrepreneurs, we understand the struggles small firms may have with collections, lowering of retainers and simple balance sheet issues, and as such we are interested in acquisitions or agencies that may be looking to merge into a larger agency," said Ronn Torossian, CEO of 5W PR. "We are targeting small firms and we are seeing a lot of Public Relations firms doing great work, but are facing tough times. We are very confident that we will continue to grow and view acquisitions as a component of that process. We are cash positive and want to invest in acquisitions to grow."

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Smart PR: When You're Bailed Out By Taxpayers, Nix the Partying

Adam Bradbury of Dow Jones Newswires reports that "Citigroup has canceled a Christmas party for London-based staff in its fixed-income division because senior executives in the group decided it would be inappropriate amid ongoing layoffs, a person familiar with the matter said Tuesday.

The cancellation comes after Citigroup announced in November that it plans to shed 52,000 staff worldwide and reduce expenses by 20% in an attempt to weather the global financial crisis and a sharp economic downturn.

It also comes after the bank canned an equities division party, which was due to be held Dec. 3 at London's Cafe de Paris for the same reason.

The fixed-income party was due to be held Dec. 11 at Paper, an exclusive nightclub on Regent Street, in the West End of London, which boasts of a range of celebrity guests such as world champion Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton and actress Keira Knightley.

The event was going to be paid for by the managing directors in the bank's fixed-income division, which include the interest rates, foreign exchange and commodities businesses, the person said.

"It was obviously a commitment made a long time ago," said the person familiar with the matter. "Given that (Citigroup) is letting so many people go, the managing directors didn't feel it was right to host a big party for those who are staying so they decided to cancel it."

The Sauce

Good thinking. Bernays Sauce is all for celebrating the season (contact these guys!)--especially in depressing times such as these. However, if a company is laying off thousands and are the recipient of taxpayer largess to bail them out of poor business decisions, then perhaps they need to put down that egg nog and back away...quickly.

It's a no-brainer, but as big corporations have proven lately (see AIG, GM, Ford, etc.) public image is not always a serious consideration, even when they go hat in hand to the people for a rescue.

Disclosure: The writer of this post owns a miniscule amount of stock in Citigroup. Stop laughing.

Friday, December 5, 2008

On the Exaltation of Exhaustion

Huffington Post founder and editor Arianna Huffington makes a compelling case contrary to the American "ideal" of what constitutes success. Is it truly the ones who work themselves into exhaustion, the people who truly do not "have a life" who are most successful? Check it out:

This morning on the CBS Early Show I was asked about Ed Rendell's off-mic assessment that Janet Napolitano is a "perfect" choice for Homeland Security Secretary because she has "no life," "no family" and "can devote, literally, 19-20 hours a day" to the job. Did I think his comment was sexist?

I didn't. But I do think it is emblematic of a pervasive misperception in America: the idea that to be a success you have to drive yourself into the ground, and that making work the be-all and end-all of your life is a good thing.

I've touched on this before: The prevailing culture tells us that nothing succeeds like excess, that working 80 hours a week is better than working 70, that being plugged in 24/7 is expected, and that sleeping less and multi-tasking more are an express elevator to the top.

Rendell's paean to workaholism epitomizes this wrong-headed approach to achievement. Indeed, the truth is the exact opposite. It turns out people are not only happier -- they are also much more productive if they are able to get away from work, and renew their passion and focus.

The alternative approach is what has led to America being awash in heart disease, high blood pressure, and other stress-related ailments.

The Sauce
Your faithful Bernays Sauce editor has been there. I've spent many a 16 or 18-hour day with my nose to the grindstone....and I don't mean occasionally. I'm talking about working those kinds of hours for weeks at a time. I would work myself sick. I'd gain weight, smoke, drink way too much coffee...I was plagued with intense cluster headaches and just plain felt and looked bad.

What did it get me? Not much. My job performance began to go down because I was so exhausted mentally and physically.

A few years ago I had a bit of an epiphany. I'll spare you the details; suffice it to say that I'm into my forties now and I still work hard--sometimes with very long hours. But I also have a newborn daughter and interests outside work. I balance my work life with a healthy family relationship, regular trips to the gym and writing fiction in my spare time. I also read...a lot. I pay attention to popular culture.

Guess what? I'm successful. I do quality, respected work that benefits my clients. When necessary, of course I pull a long day--but I strive to make that the exception, not the rule.

What it boils down to is this: a mentally and physically exhausted, ill-informed public relations professional is more than just ineffective: they're a genuine liability. To be at your best as a public relations professional you need to have a balanced life. Recharge the batteries. Take time to read and know what's going on in the world. Be truly present when you're with your family--put the Crackberry away and play with the kids. You'll do fresher work, make fewer mistakes and your enthusiasm for your work will increase.

Recently, I had the honor of speaking in a session at the Kansas City Ad Club career day. The luncheon keynote speaker was Brian Brooker, CEO & Chief Creative Officer of Barkley, one of the largest independent ad agencies in the U.S. He gave a great talk about his career and what up-and-coming young people should expect from a life in the agency world. One thing he was very clear about was his disdain for "pulling all-nighters." I'm paraphrasing here, but Brooker warned that too many long nights equated with mediocre work. He told the audience that they need to have a balance between their work and personal lives. Not what I expected to hear from the leader of such a prominent, successful agency--but I'm glad he said it.

I will add this caveat: in a down economy such as the one we labor in today it is not a good time to appear to be anything less than essential to your employer or clients. But you still need to keep that work/life balance, or the quality of your work can suffer and may make a difference in keeping that job or client after all.

Now take a break! The comments section is open for your opinions and stories.

Monday, November 24, 2008

KCRiverFest 2008 Named Finalist for Best International Festival

Kansas City’s EventPros Honored with Nomination
(KANSAS CITY)—KCRiverFest has been named a finalist for an international special event award.

The Special Events Magazine Advisory Board released the list of entries nominated to receive a Gala Award, the most prestigious prize in the special events industry. EventPros, Inc., a Kansas City special events and communications company, received the nomination for their work producing KCRiverFest, Kansas City’s annual Independence Day festival. EventPros produces KCRiverFest on behalf of Friends of the River—Kansas City.

"We had nearly 400 entries, a 20 percent increase over last year," says Special Events editor Lisa Hurley. "The competition was fierce." This year’s competition drew entries in 35 categories from Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, England, Germany, Spain, Thailand, United Arab Emirates and the United States.

Nominated entries went through three rounds of judging. The Special Events Magazine Advisory Board will select the winners during The Special Event 2009 Conference, Jan. 27-30 in San Diego, Calif. The Gala Awards will handed out on Jan. 30 at a black-tie gala ceremony.

As finalists for the Best Fair/Festival, EventPros/KCRiverFest is in competition with events in Sacramento, California and Harrisburg, N.C. Last year’s winner in this category was Marketing and More of Munich, Germany for “Mini United 2007,” a three-day festival in Zandvoort, Netherlands.

“EventPros is the premier event planning company in Kansas City, and their nomination to receive a Gala Award from Special Events Magazine is a testament to the quality of their work,” said Chris Gutierrez, KCRiverFest chairperson. “KCRiverFest has become Kansas City’s Riverfront tradition and Friends of the River-KC is pleased to be working with EventPros on this event through 2011.”

The 2008 KCRiverFest was the first produced by EventPros. Shortly after the successful festival, EventPros accepted a three-year contract to produce the acclaimed festival.

“We are very excited and humbled to be a finalist for this international award. We see this not only as an honor for our work producing KCRiverFest, but as a strong indication of the quality and importance of this festival to our community. We are also gratified to bring international attention to this unique Kansas City event,” said John Short and Bill Svoboda, owners of EventPros.

“We’re very proud of our team, as well as the leaders and volunteers of Friends of the River,” Svoboda and Short added. “It’s an honor to work with them on this growing event, and look forward to making KCRiverFest 2009 an even bigger success.” The EventPros team producing KCRiverFest includes Lisa Holst and Alex Greenwood, along with a host of professional staff and volunteers.

Major sponsors for KCRiverFest included KCTV 5/myKSMO, the Port Authority of Kansas City, Isle of Capri Casino, Neighborhood Tourism Development Fund, EventPros, Inc., Time Warner Cable, Cumulus Radio, Urban Times Magazine, Radio Disney, Burns & McDonnell, Hertz, King Hershey Attorneys at Law, Clarkson Construction and BlueCross BlueShield of Kansas City.

For more information on The Special Event show, visit For more on the magazine, visit

Friends of the River-Kansas City (FOR-KC) is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to celebrate the heritage and to promote the development of the Kansas City riverfront through education, community outreach, volunteer commitment and fundraising.

Founded in 2001, EventPros, Inc. specializes in all facets of event planning and production of any size and budget, including large-scale community festivals. The firm recently introduced extensive image management, marketing and communications consulting services. EventPros also performs functions for events, conferences and parties including theme development, food and beverage design, transportation and tours, talent sourcing and on-site event management. Visit or call 816.960.3400 for more information.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Tone Deaf PR of the Big Three

ABC's Brian Ross and Joseph Rhee report that the Big Three automaker CEOs flew private jets to Washington, D.C. to plead for taxpayer-subsidized bailouts:

The CEOs of the big three automakers flew to the nation's capital yesterday in private luxurious jets to make their case to Washington that the auto industry is running out of cash and needs $25 billion in taxpayer money to avoid bankruptcy.

The CEOs of GM, Ford and Chrysler may have told Congress that they will likely go out of business without a bailout yet that has not stopped them from traveling in style, not even First Class is good enough.

All three CEOs - Rick Wagoner of GM, Alan Mulally of Ford, and Robert Nardelli of Chrysler - exercised their perks Tuesday by flying in corporate jets to DC. Wagoner flew in GM's $36 million luxury aircraft to tell members of Congress that the company is burning through cash, asking for $10-12 billion for GM alone.

"We want to continue the vital role we've played for Americans for the past 100 years, but we can't do it alone," Wagoner told the Senate Banking Committee.

While Wagoner testified, his G4 private jet was parked at Dulles airport. It is just one of a fleet of luxury jets owned by GM that continues to ferry executives around the world despite the company's dire financial straits.

"This is a slap in the face of taxpayers," said Tom Schatz, President of Citizens Against Government Waste. "To come to Washington on a corporate jet, and asking for a hand out is outrageous."

Wagoner's private jet trip to Washington cost his ailing company an estimated $20,000roundtrip. In comparison, seats on Northwest Airlines flight 2364 from Detroit to Washington were going online for $288 coach and $837 first class.

After the hearing, Wagoner declined to answer questions about his travel.

Ford CEO Mulally's corporate jet is a perk included for both he and his wife as part of his employment contract along with a $28 million salary last year. Mulally actually lives in Seattle, not Detroit. The company jet takes him home and back on weekends.
"It appears that the senior management of the automakers simply don't get it," said Schatz.

The Sauce

"It appears that the senior management of the automakers simply don't get it," said Schatz.

It would seem so. It would also seem that their public relations advisors are either too "in the bubble" or too powerless to point this out to their bosses. This kind of tone deaf handling of a crisis situation could very well be a nail in their coffin when trying to shore up public support for a bailout. These guys apparently learned nothing from AIG, where executives of the bailed-out-by-taxpayers insurance behemoth met at swanky resorts.

Public relations professionals who are doing their jobs should be thinking "outside the bubble;" operating three steps ahead by analyzing how company actions will affect public opinion. This is especially true in a crisis period such as the one the automakers face. The PR professional should also have the nerve to tell the boss when he's about to make a very stupid move--even one that was unintentional.

I was once in this situation, and had the unenviable task of telling my boss, the CEO of a sizable firm, that he was making a mistake by doing XYZ. He responded very negatively, to which I replied, "Part of my job is to tell you the truth as I see it. The fact that you don't like the truth doesn't make it any less true."

Well, it did not end well for either of us. I didn't work there much longer (by my choice) and the company went out of business relatively quickly after my departure. Of course, the company didn't close because I left, but certainly some poor decisions affected the public image of the company-- and that certainly didn't help when other business woes struck.

Lesson: Stay out of the bubble!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


The folks over at Bottom Line Communications first posted this gem a few years ago, and it bears repeating. As a former editor and reporter, I can tell you these "tips" are spot-on. My personal favorites are in bold.--Editor


A few years ago, we developed a tongue-in-cheek list of "16 Sure-Fire Ways to Impress the Media" based on feedback from media folks. Little did we know these tips would be reprinted in hundreds of publications and in the book "The Brand Management Checklist."

Here they are:

* Demand that reporters run your entire news release "as is" with no editing, including your pithy headline.

* Tell reporters that you have an "exclusive" story for them only. Then send it to all the other media outlets to also give them "exclusives."

* Let reporters know your story would make a good cover story. Unlike you, sometimes they just don't realize the importance of it.

* In an interview use the words "No Comment" as often as possible because reporters appreciate not having to write down so much stuff.

* Always demand to review the story ahead of time. That way you can make sure it comes out correctly.

* If you say something you wish you hadn't, quickly follow-up by saying "That was off-the-record." Don't bother to let them know when you are "on-the-record" again. Keep them guessing.

* Let the reporter know upfront that you consider all media people a bunch of liberal, pot-smoking bleeding hearts, but that you are graciously willing to let him/her a chance to handle your story. They will appreciate your honesty.

* Let reporters know you are well-connected to the editor/publisher/station manager. Tell them you hope you won't have to go over their heads!!

* Pretend you genuinely care about reporters' deadlines. Then ignore them.

* Constantly tell reporters that all information is "proprietary." This will eliminate a lot of needless facts in your story.

* Make sure to tell reporters you never read their newspaper or watch/listen to their station because they always get things wrong. Again, they appreciate honesty.

* After the interview is over make sure you contact the reporter hourly to determine the status of the story. Call more often if you really think the story is a good one.

* When the story runs, call the reporter and tell him/her to send you a copy/tape. They consider it part of their job to respond to your needs.

* Always let reporters know your company is a big advertiser and helps pay their salary. This is a great way to impress them and guarantee a great story.

* If you say something stupid, or if the story is negative, always claim you were misquoted or that they edited out your real remarks. Demand a retraction!!

* If a reporter does a good job and writes a great story, don't bother to thank him/her. That's why they make the big bucks. It's enough of a reward for them to have worked with a real media professional.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Kansas City Scores PR Coup with GMA

From the Kansas City Convention and Visitors Association:
Nov. 11, 2008

Good Morning America to spotlight Kansas City's holiday traditions

Thanks to a partnership between the KCCVA and Hallmark Cards, Kansas City will be one of three holiday windows featured in Good Morning America’s Times Square Studios in New York City. GMA selected Kansas City, Atlanta, and Denver for the ground level studio windows for the show's annual Holiday Window Series. The windows will bring viewers—and people who visit in person—a fun and festive look at holiday traditions in the various cities represented.

The KC window will be unveiled live on Dec. 3 to more than 4.3 million viewers nationwide, and will become a backdrop for the show until Dec. 31. The double-sided display will also be seen by the millions of people that pass through Times Square during the holidays.

"The national exposure from this opportunity will be priceless. And, we couldn't think of a better partner than Hallmark Cards to introduce KC to millions of potential visitors this holiday season," said KCCVA President Rick Hughes.
The CVA partnered with Hallmark Cards to build Kansas City's elaborate display, complete with moving parts and lights, to showcase the city to the nation. Scott Butterfield, trend consultant and Hallmark employee for 20 years, used Hallmark's Keepsake Ornaments for inspiration as he incorporated iconic Kansas City scenes to build the window.

GMA started the Holiday Window Series last year with windows showcasing New York City, Chicago and Dallas. Stay tuned for more information about the Dec. 3 unveiling in the coming weeks.

Learn more about the GMA Holiday Windows by clicking here.

Watch KMBC's video about the window design.

Read the story in the Kansas City Star.

photo copyright 2008, A. Greenwood

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Are You LinkedIn or on FaceBook? Should You Be?

Social networking sites like LinkedIn and FaceBook are fundamental in getting your personal professional self in front of the right people in the 21st Century. LinkedIn is very helpful in a job search or even scoring a new client, as Stephen Spencer noted on his blog:
I had been on LinkedIn for quite a while but I never gave it much thought or attention. I had never bothered filling out a meaningful profile for myself. And I had never sought to add any contacts to my network.

This year I saw the light -- I saw how valuable LinkedIn can be if you know how to work it. I witnessed my colleague Brian Klais use LinkedIn to find some amazing candidates for SEO positions at our company Netconcepts. At the best of times it's hard to hire for SEO positions, as those who are the most qualified are undoubtedly already pulling in a very respectable paycheck. LinkedIn made it a breeze for Brian. Brian's success spurred me on to give LinkedIn a bit more of my attention.
I tend to agree, and have had some success using LinkedIn.

Facebook is a different animal. Besides the potential dangers (posting the wrong photos, your private life spilling over into your public life, etc.) it can be argued that its just not a serious use of your time or the Internet:

Put simply, it’s today’s AOL. It’s an argument that’s been made before, and it’s becoming more clear as the site grows more ambitious.
The Sauce

LinkedIn is an invaluable online networking tool, especially when used properly and strategically. It's an opportunity to show the world your "better professional self;" a high-profile place to post your resume, photo and recommendations.

FaceBook is an excellent place for targeted marketing, but I question its efficacy as a means of promoting yourself, especially when LinkedIn has cornered the market on professional social networking online. FaceBook can also be a massive timewaster.

Many local online networking sites are also successful, like Chris Gould's Kansas City-area phenomenon, Kansas City Online Community. This particular network features in-person networking events and seminars (yours truly spoke at the first such event), thus giving participants the best of both worlds.

It really all gets down to how well you write and maintain your profile--just like any network, it's all about what you put into it.

What are your thoughts? Successes? Horror stories? The comments section is open.

That said, come visit your humble Bernay's Sauce editor's profile on LinkedIn. As for my FaceBook page...well, why waste your time?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Quote of the Day

“If it’s done right, public relations should pave the way for any branding effort and support those other marketing avenues. If it all fits together, the message becomes more powerful.” --Janey Bishoff

Friday, October 10, 2008

Palin's Smart Use of PR Firm Rockets Her to The Top

A real lesson in the power of public relations is told in this Washington Post article, excerpted below:

During her first months in office, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin kept a relatively light schedule on her workdays in Juneau, making ceremonial appearances at sports events and funerals, meeting with state lawmakers, and conducting interviews with Alaska magazines, radio stations and newspapers.

But this spring, Palin's official calendar chronicles an extraordinary rise to national prominence. A fresh face in Republican politics, she was discovered by the national news media at least in part because of a determined effort by a state agency to position her as an oil and gas expert who could tout Alaska's determined effort to construct a natural gas pipeline.

An outside public relations expert hired under a $31,000 contract with the state Department of Natural Resources pitched the "upstart governor" as a crusader against Big Oil, a story line that Palin has adopted in her campaign as Sen. John McCain's running mate. The contract was the only time the Palin administration hired an outside consultant to set up media interviews, a function performed in many states by government employees.

At the state Capitol, Palin agreed to be "shadowed" for days by some national reporters, and her dealings with the legislature dropped off so dramatically that some House and Senate members donned red-and-white "Where's Sarah?" buttons to show their disapproval. But her high-visibility campaign paid off, helping Palin win notice from political pundits, who began including her on lists of long-shot choices for the GOP vice presidential spot.

"We were glad she was out there promoting energy development," said Alaska state Rep. Jay Ramras (R), an occasional critic of Palin. "Who would have guessed the self-promoting element would have led to such an improbable move, to place her on the ticket, but it worked."

Monday, September 22, 2008

PRSA Chief: There Are Some PR Pros Who Do Wrong

This is an excerpt from an excellent article centering on PRSA President Jeffrey Julin's advice to the presidential candidates, as well as his take on bad actors in the profession.--Editor

Julin concedes that the PR profession has its own PR problem when it comes to the public’s perception of its own conduct, and that some in the business have fueled that perception.

“Quite honestly, there are communications professionals who do the things that people think [we do], who obfuscate, who do manipulate the information,” he said. “And as an organization for public relations, and as an advocate for effective public relations, we say no, that’s not the way to go.”

In fact, Julin argues that ethics in communication isn’t just a matter of doing the right thing; it simply works better.

“It’s true whether it’s elections or business,” he said. “The most effective communications, no matter what you’re trying to get, is based on truth and accuracy and respect.”

And based on several months as PRSA’s leader, Julin said he’s convinced most communications pros buy into that idea.

“It’s a great profession to be in, and there are great people in it,” he said. “They really do care.”

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Extended Stay Hotels: A Windy Approach to Advertising

A new ad campaign from Extended Stay Hotels is apparently hoping to put the wind in their sales. If you haven’t seen the new spot, it’s basically a series of moments of blissed-out individuals passing gas all over their hotel rooms…in the hall, in the laundry area, on their pillow, in the chairs, etc. followed by the tagline: “No place makes you feel more comfortable.”

At this writing, this website and this one have the spot posted for your viewing pleasure.

The Sauce

Okay, as a fan of Blazing Saddles, I have to say that I appreciate a good fart joke. But as a matter of establishing an image or a brand I would seriously question whether I would want my client to be known as “the smelliest hotel.”

Honestly, we all pass gas, but do you really want to stay at a hotel that is so obviously “in your face" about it. (Literally in your face if people are farting on pillows. Ewwww. There, I said it.)

I think Extended Stay is a good hotel chain—I have stayed in one in my travels. Heck, I probably even broke wind in there, but: I didn’t advertise it when I did, and by the same token, neither should they.

A guest’s comfort in a hotel is a key marketing message, hence the marketing of plush beds, room service, swimming pools, concierge services, etc. But what’s next? Extended Stay Hotels: We’re So Comfortable We Even Have Toilet Paper? Spare me that visual.

I called Extended Stay’s corporate offices for a comment, but I got blown off.

Let's be clear about this: being edgy, clever and fun are important in rising above the fray in today’s media mix. There are also those who say that any publicity is good publicity. However, there’s a line—ever vanishing, but it’s still there—called good taste. Extended Stay has crossed that line, and this ad campaign has overstayed its welcome.

I’d say it’s time for Extended Stay to pass on future use of this theme. It could have a silent but deadly effect on sales. Guests could literally be gone with the wind.

The Comment section is open for your remarks...

Monday, September 15, 2008

Tooting Our Own Horn...and Yours

The Kansas City Business Journal did a fantastic piece on the Bernays Sauce parent company, EventPros, Inc.

Just goes to show you what a good public relations pro can do for your business--no matter what the size. If your story is compelling and you pitch it right, good things can happen!

Here's an excerpt, followed by a link to the complete story.

When you listen to the clients of EventPros Inc. talk about the company’s owners, it’s easy to envision the two men as something straight from DC Comics, the letter S emblazoned on their chest, faster than a speeding bullet and always able to save the day.

Example one: Setup was complete for KCRiverFest in the summer when a microburst hit the evening before the event. Half of the tents were destroyed, the stage lighting was blown off, and debris littered the park. The day of the event, the two men and their team were up before dawn and set everything back up in five hours, in time to open that afternoon.

Example two: The HNTB Cos. 2002 holiday party was in danger after parting ways with another event planner just two weeks before the event. The day of the party, EventPros showed up unexpectedly and unannounced, spent two hours with the group and saved the party.

“They were wonderful. They were our heroes,” said Amy Rempel, an executive assistant for Scott Smith, CEO of HNTB.
Read the rest of the story here.

Contact us today to discuss your public relations and special event needs.

Who knows? Maybe someday soon the media will publish something about your company to toot about!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

How Blogging Gets Me 10-15 Customers a Week

An interesting article on business blogging from

In Bellingham, WA, most businesses don’t become profitable after a few months – but don’t tell that to Evergreen Team Concepts, a consulting and training company. Armed with four employees and a $1,000 a month marketing budget, Evergreen tried it all, including: going door-to-door, direct mail marketing, cold-calling, issuing press releases and everything they could find on the internet. Only one thing brought customers in the door with consistency.

“We tried a number of advertising methods. Newspapers were probably the biggest waste of money, whereas, MerchantCircle was getting about 10-15 customers a week through our doors as a result of the blogs we were writing on our MerchantCircle page. We were showing up at the top of search engines in our area,” said Mike Ridpath, who handles marketing for Evergreen.

After launching the business in September of 2007, Evergreen grew from four employees to 11 by April of 2008. By then, they were one the biggest training provider in all of Washington and nominated as a Start-Up of the Year finalist for Whatcom County in Washington. The company has plans for future expansion outside of Washington, and MerchantCircle will be an integral part of marketing.

“The key to generating more visitors to your listing and driving up your search engine results come from blogs,” says Jennifer Roberts, MerchantCircle Customer Support. “There’s a consistent theme amongst our merchants who get several hundred hits to their listings a month – they all stay active writing and posting blogs. The search engines love the fresh content, and Evergreen Team Concepts is an excellent example of that.”

EventPros can help you get started on business blogging. Give us a shout here to learn more.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Happy Friday Everyone!

Hi Folks,

Just wanted to wish you a Happy Friday and a safe, fun and restful weekend. Also, if there are questions, comments or tips about which you'd like us to blog, the comments section is open.

Until then, please come back next week for some more of the good sauce!

--The Gang at Bernays Sauce

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

McCain Opts for More Traditional Veep Announcement

On Aug. 22, we mentioned the clever way the Obama campaign was notifying supporters and media of his running mate, Sen. Joe Biden:

It’s a clever idea on Obama's part to use text messaging and email to make the announcement; thus reinforcing to what most polling indicates is his base: younger, tech savvy voters. Despite some hoaxes, it has also generated some nice PR for him outside the usual stuff we get every four years when it's veep announcement time...Have you signed up for the text message? Like Obama or not, it makes you part of history when that text message notice beeps, for whatever that's worth. Next week we'll look at what McCain is doing to build buzz for his Veep pick.

Though it did leak out close to the end, we give Obama points for bringing new media into play in this high interest story. It also had the effect of engaging younger voters and generating solid “buzz.”

The Sauce on McCain

Well, if Obama went with something fresh and new, John McCain instead went for the more traditional approach--a smart move if he wants to position himself differently than his rival.

His announcement of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin went the normal, joint announcement route. Also, he did do a bit of a head fake—suggesting strongly the nominee could have been Sen. Lieberman, Mitt Romney or Gov. Tim Pawlenty—but instead he introduced the relatively unknown governor of the Last Frontier. Complete with a crowd whipped into frenzy and even some cheerleaders, McCain stunned the punditocracy and the nation. Though we don’t think it was nearly as innovative or interesting as Obama’s method, it still managed to generate plenty of buzz by virtue of his off-the-wall pick.

Extra points for the fact that, despite making the announcement on the Friday of Labor Day weekend (Fridays are typically a media dead zone--often called the "media dump day" because people just aren't watching the news in large numbers on a Friday night--and make that Friday the kickoff for a holiday weekend, it's even less), McCain still managed to get killer press.

So, both candidates managed to pull off a PR coup in their announcements. Now after the conventions end and the last bits of ticker tape are swept up, the real fun begins.

Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below. Please remember, this post is about their PR strategy, not their politics...

Friday, August 22, 2008

KCRiverFest Promotional Video 2008

A successful event produced by our firm, EventPros. Check it out!

This great July 4th event returns next year. For sponsorship opportunities, contact us here.

Friday Sauce: Public Relations in the News

Beep, Beep, Who Knows the Veep?

Just a quick note that the Obama campaign is adding a nice twist to the quadrennial dance that every presidential nominee plays with the media. Though most conventional wisdom points to Biden, it could well be a head fake. But that's for another blog to discuss.

No matter who he chooses, it's a clever idea on Obama's part to use text messaging and email to make the announcement; thus reinforcing to what most polling indicates is his base: younger, tech savvy voters. Despite some hoaxes, it has also generated some nice PR for him outside the usual stuff we get every four years when it's veep announcement time. We should know sometime today or tomorrow. Have you signed up for the text message? Like Obama or not, it makes you part of history when that text message notice beeps, for whatever that's worth. Next week we'll look at what McCain is doing to build buzz for his Veep pick.

UPDATE: It's Biden.

No Sauce, Just News: A couple of notable bits from PRWeek:

MSNBC conducting media outreach for Digital Cafe

MSNBC's internal PR staff is conducting a media outreach and brand awareness campaign for the network's Rockefeller Center Digital Café.

The cable network, a partnership between NBC Universal and Microsoft, will target consumer tourism publications through the end of the year. The company, which has headquarters above the café, also reached out to advertising and marketing trade media.

MSNBC conducted two events, one for members of the media and another for New York concierges, who often direct tourists to landmarks, prior to the café's July 28 opening, said Gina Stikes, MSNBC director of marketing.

The effort also contained an employee-outreach component, as the network's communications staff, which is not working with an outside agency on behalf of MSNBC, used internal e-mail messages, newsletters, and merchandise to promote the coffee shop to colleagues, Stikes said.

Brands represented in the Digital Cafe, like Chock Full O'Nuts and Garrett Popcorn Shops, also conducted media relations for the effort in partnership with MSNBC PR team, she added.

Clark Nessrodt, VP at Bullfrog & Baum, which is AOR for New York and national press for Garrett, said it hopes to raise awareness for the Chicago-based brand in other markets.

Military to select firm for 'info ops' initiative in Iraq

The US military expects to hire a firm to provide “information operations” support in Iraq to counter insurgent misinformation tactics. The bids were due on Friday, August 22.

Army public affairs officer Paul Boyce said the reason for the RFP is primarily the military's need to counter misinformation spread by hostile parties. Stopping rumors is a particular need for the Army, but finding out about those rumors is difficult if the language and culture of the area of operations is not well understood.

“We've had an insurgent population that has sought to kill our soldiers,” Boyce said. “By communicating with people in Iraq in as many ways possible what we're trying to do to help them, and what we're trying to do to prevent people from using these ruthless roadside bombs that blow up people in streets, in schools and mosques, we find that a very important thing.”

Work for the account involves a wide range of communications activities, including monitoring and analyzing Arabic and Western media; spokesperson training; and development and dissemination of TV, radio, newsprint, and Internet “information” products, according to the RFP, originally issued by the Department of the Army's Joint Contracting Command in late July.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

KCRiverFest 2008 Success Nets Three-Year Commitment for EventPros

Just tooting our own horn a bit...--Editor

(KANSAS CITY)—Production management of the next three KCRiverFests has been awarded to EventPros, a leading Kansas City event planning, production and communications firm.

“As producers of KCRiverFest 2008, EventPros cut costs, negotiated contracts with vendors and initiated a very successful media plan. They worked with Friends of the River –Kansas City to successfully reinvigorate the festival—putting it on a firm footing to continue for years to come.” said Chris Gutierrez, KCRiverFest Chairman. “We are very excited about the prospect of working with EventPros to make each succeeding KCRiverFest bigger and better.”

“EventPros is honored to accept this unprecedented offer from Friends of the River,” said Bill Svoboda and John Short, owners of EventPros. “It’s gratifying that our work has been embraced by this great organization. We are very proud to be their partner in making KCRiverFest not only the Fourth of July destination of choice, but ultimately the premier annual festival in Kansas City.”

This year’s KCRiverfest attracted more than 35,000 visitors July 3 and 4 to Richard L. Berkley Riverfront Park. It featured local bands, entertainers, food and a variety of exhibit booths. The festival culminated in an 18-minute high altitude fireworks display broadcast live by presenting sponsor KCTV 5. More information is available at Information about next year’s event will be added to the site soon.

“Under the direction of Festival Chairman Chris Gutierrez, the EventPros team is already developing some exciting ideas that will make 2009’s Fourth of July more memorable for the entire community,” Svoboda added. “The Port Authority of Kansas City has made Berkley Park into a fantastic community resource, and KCRiverFest is a great way to show it off. The sky’s the limit for our next festival.”

Founded in 2001, EventPros, Inc. specializes in all facets of event planning and production of any size and budget, including large-scale community festivals. The firm recently introduced extensive public relations, marketing and communications consulting services tailored for midsized to small businesses and organizations. EventPros also performs functions for events, conferences and parties including theme development, food and beverage design, transportation and tours, talent sourcing and on-site event management. Visit or call 816.960.3400 for more information.

Worth A Look...Emmy Winning Reporter Jeff Crilley's PR Tips

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Some Good Advice for Online Networking

Do you use LinkedIn or Twitter or Facebook or any of the myriad online social networking sites out there? Here's some advice on doing it right. Hat tip to HairPro at the very impressive Kansas City Online Community for pointing out Rebecca Beasley's good tips on social networking.

Here's an excerpt:

If you try to use social networks by just signing up and sending bulletins and emails to people, you’re missing the point entirely. If you don’t have a profile that’s the first thing people notice. You’ve already ruined your credibility and made yourself look like a scammer. Anyone who doesn’t take the time to at least set up a simple bio page has nothing to present. Even if you add friends, what are they going to see? No one wants to do business with someone they don’t know. To them you’re like a stranger lurking in the shadows with no real identity. You also want to have a nice picture of yourself so they will see it when your activity comes up in the search engine of the site. If you don’t have a picture people see you as the default no pic blank photo and this makes you look like you’re not professional or trustworthy.

The whole posting is here. Give it a click.

The Sauce

Good face-to-face networking in the Kansas City area may be found at the Greater KC Chamber of Commerce's Business After Hours. Click here for details on the next one!

And if you need assistance in making your social networking site sing, let me know.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Are Cafeteria-Style PR Firms The Next Big Thing?

The Business Journal of the Greater Triad Area reports that a “cafeteria-style public relations franchise is opening its first store this fall.”

The outfit will “cater to small- and medium-sized businesses, offering a "menu" of public relations, marketing and advertising services on an à la carte basis, rather than charging a retainer fee.”

The Sauce
“Coming soon to an abandoned Starbucks location near you—the PR Store!”

I kid, I kid. Well, mostly.

I have no quarrel with their business model, though I have two qualms:

1. The website for the company shows that the “PR Store” mostly offers marketing services; it’s very light on actual Public Relations services. This blurring of the lines between professions is not good and continues to erode the public view of what “public relations” is. I mean, honestly, why don’t they call it “The Marketing Store”?

2. Even if the company truly marketed professional public relations services, I just plain hate the less-than-clever moniker of “PR Store.” Ugh…just when I thought there could be nothing as cheesy as “The Money Store.” It brings to mind an image of clients pushing a rickety shopping cart through aisles marked “Press Releases” “Brochure Design” and “Web Content.”

Actually, our firm offers à la carte services, too. In fact, much of our clientele fits that demo. Clearly the market need is there—especially for small-to-mid-sized companies and organizations. The article said that the company has “about 40 stores in 19 states. PR Store expects to open 350 more within the next five years." I believe it.

Lew G. Brown, associate professor of marketing at the Bryan School of Business at UNC-Greensboro, said in the article that “PR Store is the only retail marketing shop in the Triad of which he knows. The target market of small businesses are often the ones who need help in PR and marketing.”

"They may not know what they need, and if they do they often can't afford it," said Brown, who has worked as a marketing consultant. "It's a tough market, but clearly there is a need."

I couldn’t agree more. My aversion isn’t to the concept of helping small businesses with affordable services. It’s the blurring of the lines between marketing and PR. Add in the crass “store” theme and voila, the cheapening of the profession continues. It’s simply a matter of style and concern about its effects on the already-embattled public relations profession.

Contact me today to learn of ways our firm can help your business, organization or cause: a’ la carte or full service. I promise we won’t give you a squeaky-wheeled cart.

The Best Béarnaise Sauce

Okay, I know that some of you may have tripped over this site by accident looking for the best Béarnaise Sauce recipe ever; so I consulted my colleague John Short over at EventPros. Here's his favorite. Enjoy!

Béarnaise Sauce

1 lb 4 oz butter 1/8 tsp peppercorns, crushed 1/8 tsp salt 3 Tbsp tarragon vinegar 2 Tbsp cold water 6 egg yolks 1 Tbsp fresh tarragon cayenne pepperlemon juice

Clarify the butter. Keep it warm but not hot.
Combine the peppercorns, salt, and vinegar in a saucepan. Reduce until dry.
Remove from the heat and add the cold water. Transfer the diluted reduction to a stainless steel bowl.
Add the egg yolks and beat well.
Hold the bowl over a hot-water bath and beat the yolks until they are thickened and creamy. Do not overcook them or they will curdle.
Remove the bowl from the heat. Using a ladle, slowly and gradually beat in the warm, clarified butter, adding it drop by drop at first. If it becomes too thick to beat before all the butter is added, beat in a little of the tarragon vinegar.
When all the butter has been added, beat in lemon juice to taste and adjust the seasonings with salt and cayenne. If necessary, thin the sauce with a few drops of warm water.

For Hollandaise Sauce delete tarragon and tarragon vinegar - replace each with lemon juice
For Mousseline Sauce fold 1 cup whipped cream into basic Hollandaise Sauce

Other variations:
Substitute each for tarragon/tarragon vinegar – Paloise Sauce (fresh mint); Maltaise Sauce (orange juice with orange zest); Mikado Sauce (tangerine juice with tangerine zest); Choron Sauce (1/2 cup diced Roma Tomatoes).

Be creative!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Sprint Through Taking It On the Chin? A Look at A New Tactic

Embattled telecom giant Sprint is apparently through taking it on the chin.

You've seen the Alltel spots that take humorous cheap shots at their competitors ("Wizard!"), but Verizon has stepped it up a notch, going after Sprint's push-to-talk service

In a recent pitch to tech bloggers, the Overland Park, KS-based company used a little humor to jab at Verizon's latest attempt to chip away at Sprint's customer base.

The cartoon (above), takes a bite out of the iconic Verizon "can you hear me now?" character, implying that the emperor (Verizon) has no clothes when it comes to push-to-talk. Sprint talking points were included with the cartoon, including this critical fact:

Sprint has more than 15 years of expertise and is the undisputed leader in push to talk services. Our competitor has just launched their “new” service and has less than 4 years of total experience in offering push to talk.

Sprint ends on this note:

How does that old saying go? “The greatest form of flattery is imitation.” Well, that’s what our competitor is doing with their new service. However, when it comes to push-to-talk, there is no imitating Nextel Direct Connect. Nice try; maybe they’ll get the hang of it . . . someday.

The Sauce:

We give this tactic an A- for creativity and execution. Going after niche tech sites is a smart move, one that every business or organization--large or small--should seriously consider as part of their public awareness and image management efforts. It has a lot going for it in concept, but it shouldn't be a one-time thing. Sprint needs to keep this sort of guerilla tactic in its overall PR/Media mix.

I (and others who have commented on the cartoon and concept) think it would be cool to make the cartoon concept into a commercial starring a familiar face; perhaps bring back the Sprint "Trenchcoat Guy," who in his heyday was as well-known as the mousy Verizon character. (Some may disagree.) Or maybe put a fun spin on it and put new Sprint CEO Dan Hesse in the trenchcoat?

Sprint has also been impressive and smart with its use of new CEO Hesse in recent "Wireless Revolution" spots. They've taken a faceless "Big Corporation" with a poor customer service reputation and given it an amiable, solid "go-to guy" who even puts his email address out there so you can contact him. We're reasonably sure he's not answering every email, but it's good public relations all the same.

Sprint still has light years to go in the quest for regaining its market share and the glory days of its brand; but clever tactics like this are a smart move.

Think this tactic is only useful for big companies? Au contraire, mon frère. This is actually a tactic that benefits smaller companies most. Why? Reason one is because they are generally more agile and can respond to market forces and public relations buzz more quickly.

Let's hear your comments on this--post them below. Also, contact us for ways we can help your business use humor tactics to raise awareness and boost market share.

Disclosure: The writer of this post is a Sprint stockholder and is directly related to a Sprint employee.