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 BĂ©arnaise 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.