Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Hail Detroit's Arsenal of Innovation

I have to get this down in writing before some other state lays claim to it: the Arsenal of Innovation. That's right, folks, that's my new mantra for Michigan. After spending last week talking to brilliant intellectual property attorneys at Brinks Hofer Gilson & Lione (full disclosure: they are a client of mine), auto industry veterans in the Rochester Optimist Club (full disclosure: I'm a member) and General Motors Institute (GMI) grads from the mid-1980's (full disclosure: they are some of the smartest women I know and they happen to be among my best friends, too)I came to the conclusion that we as a state and a nation do not give nearly enough credit to the innovation and patented technologies that are borne out of the hard work and research of our auto industry.

I've done my fair share of auto industry bashing through the years, although I'd like to think my complaints were grounded in fact. I'll even admit to being against the bailout initially. That all changed, though, when I saw members of Congress denigrating the industry based on half-truths, old information and a striking "us versus them" mentally. "This is getting personal," I thought. "Why don't they like us?" I did some more homework too and really got my arms around the depth of intellectual capital that we have concentrated in Michigan, thanks to the auto industry. Intellectual capital that benefits the entire nation. That can't be said of the assembly lines (with limited to no innovation and research) down South.

I had to chuckle at the Michigan engineer who was so upset about the treatment from Southern senators that he started a Boycott Alabama campaign and website. That's interesting, but I'm not a snowbird and likely will not even be going down South, much less to Alabama in 2009. So how can I boycott Alabama? They don't make anything! And if we're not careful, either will Michigan or the rest of our nation. Let's not lose the Arsenal of Innovation.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I Miss My Morning Newspaper Routine Already

It doesn't happen until March, but I already miss my seven straight days of home newspaper delivery. As a public relations professional who has been closely following media trends for years, I’m deeply disappointed but not surprised by the decision to reduce home delivery of the Detroit News and Free Press. It's not just the home delivery, of course, the depth and diversity of content will surely be lightened as well.

I currently read the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, Oakland Press, Rochester Eccentric and Wall Street Journal - all through home delivery. I can read the papers from 6:20am to 7:30am each day, no problem; then I go online and read the New York Times, USA Today and Yahoo News. I definitely prefer paper to plasma (to quote Liz Cezat of Cezat Creative Communications.) I already spend most of my work day online; holding a newspaper is a treat, a tradition, a luxury - not work.

There's more to this story, though. The impact on local PR people like me who want to get their clients’ messages to the public will be real and deep. However, above all, we are information brokers who get good stories and legitimate trends to writers, reporters and producers, regardless of the medium. Our profession will survive, and even thrive if we continue to be creative in providing useful information to those in a position to share it with large or targeted audiences. Also, key to future success will be going back to the roots of good PR, which is as much about building trust and relationships in the business and local communities as it is about media coverage.

I'm not happy about the changes, but I'll accept them. And I'll meet some new people in the process, too. After all,aside from pitching great story ideas, meeting terrific people is the best part of public relations.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Media Deflection Strategy: From Bad Economy to Bad Governing

Do you read the Wall Street Journal? If so, perhaps you should take a break. It's one bad news story after the other. It's not made up news, of course, it's real, really bad news. It appears that every company I ever heard of (or never heard of) is laying off more people than I knew they employed. It's my business to stay informed, though, so I keep reading - and wincing. So imagine my delight this afternoon when I got a WSJ email blast that was not more bad news about the economy.

No, in an attempt to get our collective minds off the financial crisis, the Governor of Illinois, Rod "I want to make money" Blagojevich, got himself arrested today on charges of conspiring to get financial benefits through his authority to appoint a U.S. senator to fill the vacancy left by Barack Obama. It's too early to say what will happen to Mr. Blagojevich, but a word of caution to his ultimate successor. The governorship of Illinois appears to be the gateway to the big house - and I don't mean the governor's mansion. That's right. Blagojevich replaced Governor Ryan, who is currently in jail. Even a PR guru would have a difficult time putting a positive spin on that sorry trend.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

PR Gets New Respect with Big Three's Washington Debacle

I get no respect. Well, actually I do but I needed an entree for this post. The public relations field often takes a hit on the importance of its role in the boardroom. Further, whether earned or not, PR people often get a bad rap in certain circles. Today, however, I have read in blogs and traditional print that the Detroit 3's PR stinks. Translation: Do they know what PR is and how to use it? "Where were their PR people?!!" scream irate viewers of the media debacle that unfolded this week in D.C. "Who were their advisors?!!" bemoan others.

The automotive CEOs didn't appear to have a plan for their Washington visit. If you don't have a plan for how to present your request for a huge sum of money, it does not build confidence that you have a plan for how to spend it. Like my new-found friends, the PR advocates noted above, I do question if anyone is advising them. While it sounds absurd to think not, I recall Cerberus getting rid of its PR function after its purchase of Chrysler, LLC. Their thought process appeared to be: "We are not publicly-traded anymore so we don't need to communicate with outside parties." News flash: every company needs to communicate with outside parties, albeit at different levels and with different tools.

In considering the Big 3 execs' actions this week, any decent PR person would have advised against taking a corporate jet, just for starters. It's only a ten hour drive from Detroit. They could have caravaned in their fuel efficient and/or good looking cars (not SUV's)like the Ford Focus, Lincoln MKZ or Chevy Malibu (which should have been designed for the Cadillac line because it's such a looker). Included in the caravan, which would have made for great TV, radio, video, you tubing and print photos, could be "real" employees, not only those who make $21 million a year.

A good PR person would have prepped the execs for all the worst case scenario questions. They would have encouraged warmth but would have strongly advised against the front page photo that appeared recently in the Detroit newspapers, and perhaps national ones, too, that showed all the executives sitting around the table in DC with Nancy Pelosi and other politicos GRINNING for the camera. Don't smile guys. You're not happy. Remember?

Friday, October 31, 2008

Adventures in Dentistry

As a PR person I tend to shun publicity, preferring to focus attention on my clients and their impressive accomplishments. That being said, I realize I rarely mention clients in my blog. So please allow for a commercial break as I introduce two of the best dentists in Michigan (the country?): Kurt Doolin and Jeff Haddad.

I first met Kurt Doolin in the spring of 2001 when I was hired to promote his new dental office in downtown Rochester. Kurt has a special place in my heart not only for being such a skilled dentist and all around good guy, but for taking a chance on me and continuing to retain my services without a break throughout 9/11 and the economic halt that ensued immediately thereafter. In 2004, Jeff Haddad joined the practice and Kurt and Jeff became the dynamic duo of dentistry, enhancing their skills and their practice, now called Rochester Advanced Dentistry,and having far too much fun in the process.

So why the walk down memory lane? Yesterday, Jeff Haddad received the "Young Professional of the Year" award by the Rochester Regional Chamber of Commerce and was feted, along with winners of various other community awards, among a crowd of nearly 500. A richly deserved honor, Jeff was recognized for being a top notch dentist, of course, but also for the tremendous generosity the practice has shown towards the Rochester community. Kudos to Jeff and Kurt and their entire team!

P.S. If Kurt had a fake ID, he and Jeff would have been co-winners.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

"Save Darfur" is Challenging Pitch

In the PR world, some pitches are easy and some are difficult. PR pitches for discounted designer purses: easy. Pitches for virtual colonoscopy: difficult. (Well, at least it was in 2002, although I did ultimately land a front page story - with photo- in the Detroit Free Press.) Charitable efforts and events are typically easier pitches. After all, who doesn't want to help cure childhood cancers, be considered a patron of the arts or shelter and feed the homeless? There are exceptions,though. Save Darfur? Difficult pitch. Too far away, no personal connection, too many domestic issues in the United States that need our attention, emotion and dollars. Besides, doesn't the United Nations handle tough issues like that?

Carrie Hall,who may actually be an angel but is also a photographer in metro-Detroit, invited me to a Save Darfur cocktail party last weekend at the Rochester home of her friends Catherine and Gar. There were minimal details on the invitation so of course I fretted over what to wear. I didn't want to appear insensitive and over-dress. ( Was it black tie?? I knew the home was in a lovely neighborhood.) I opted for jeans with a black leather jacket so I could have a clothing defense statement prepared. "Black tie? Oh, I thought it was black jacket!" Thankfully, I knew enough to bring my checkbook because I immediately spotted a silent auction table to my left when I entered. Carrie served as first hostess and immediately greeted guests with the announcement that Jacob Atem, one of the famed "Lost Boys of the Sudan" was on his way to the party but, alas, was lost. (Apparently, the Sudan is no match for northern Oakland County, directionally speaking.) Oh my gosh, I'll admit I did a little bit of homework on Darfur to refresh my memory on the causes of the genocide there, but I immediately recognized the "Lost Boys" reference. Why weren't there 100 people at this party with such an honored guest and a humanitarian cause? Catherine said that 80 had been invited but my guess is the number of attendees was close to 20 (albeit 20 of the nicest people you'd ever want to meet). As I said, Save Darfur: difficult pitch.

It shouldn't be, though. Catherine graciously said that economic times are tough and she understood the absences. While $2000 was raised at the event, one could have not spent a dime and still made an investment in Saving Darfur. The greatest contribution one can make is free: raise awareness about the atrocities in Darfur (so far, 2.5 millions people have fled Darfur and are living in displacement camps and 450,000 are dead; hundreds of thousands of women and children are being raped;) write a letter to the editor; write your congress person; talk to your children; visit, a website run by Michigan's leading grassroots Save Darfur citizens, Dr. Tim Page and his wife Jill. Do anything, but do something to Save Darfur.

Monday, August 11, 2008

A Salute to the PGA Foundation

I was thrilled to spend the closing day of the PGA tournament at Oakland Hills Sunday in toasty PGA Foundation chalet #35, right on the chilly and windy 18th fairway. I owe my cushy and oh-so-comfortable surroundings to client and friend Cynthia Kidder (

The PGA folks know a winner when they see one, both on and off the course. That's why they have generously supported Cynthia Kidders' efforts with Band of Angels since she first met the acquaintace of Earnie Ellison, the PGA Foundation's business development guru (not PR guru, but he's pretty good at that, too) at the 2004 Ryder Cup.

I had the privilege of meeting and chatting at length with Earnie yesterday and was incredibly impressed with this warm, elegant man who loves golf but, even more important, loves what golf can do for underprivileged kids, kids with special needs, at-risk kids and charities that support kids - and adults. For Earnie, it's all about measuring the economic impact of golf and leveraging some of that economic impact to support worthwhile charities. That's what the PGA Foundation does and they do it sincerely and consistently, giving approximately 10% of PGA tournament earnings to important local causes, large and small. Of course, they hope to expand the game of golf and interest in the sport through their charitable giving, but that's fine. Corporate charity has a substantial, legitimate business component.

Professional golf does so many things right, steering clear of scandal, bad manners and negativity. After meeting with Earnie yesterday, I have a better idea of how they maintain their sterling reputation.

Mark Spitz Should be at the Olympics, But He Should Take the High Road There

I haven't been able to watch nearly as much of the Olympics as I would like to but I have been following them in print and on-line. One of the big stories on Yahoo today is that Mark Spitz, 1972 seven-time gold medal swimmer, is not attending the Olympics because he wasn't invited. Click the link below to read about it.;_ylt=Alurya8b6HpuEP9IKMFqBtwazJV4?slug=afp-oly2008swimusaspitz&prov=afp&type=lgns

Unequivocally, Mark Spitz should have been invited to the Olympics. He should even have a premium, reserved seat in the natatorium as he and the rest of the world watch to see if U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps will usurp Spitz's seven medal record. I think Mr. Spitz deserves accolades, attention and respect, especially by the Olympic Committee. His lack of an invitation must have been a mistake, an oversight on the part of an overworked Olmpic staffer.

However, Spitz likely would have garnered an immediate apology and offered a ride to Beijing ASAP on a private jet if his disappointment was less petulant and minus the appearance of sour grapes. I would suggest something along the lines of: "I'm deeply disappointed not to be attending the Olympics but the truth is, I was not invited to attend. If I were invited, I'd be in the stands cheering for Michael Phelps and the rest of those devoted swimmers. I'd be thrilled to be there recalling my own Olympic victories and sharing in new ones with my compatriots."

You get the picture. Of course, I could be wrong. Mr. Spitz may already be enroute to Beijing, with the Olympic Committee apologizing all over themselves. I'm certain there will be some type of response. I can't wait to read about it.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

(DON'T) Save Tiger Stadium!

I have a hard time getting excited about the protracted efforts to save Tiger Stadium. Even as the wrecking ball swings, small factions are struggling to raise money to save portions of the Tigers' former home. Which portions? The upper deck women's restroom? The 38th row in the bleacher section? Detroit needs to move forward, not hang on to an empty relic of the past. (Boy, does that statement have implications far beyond Tiger Stadium!)

It's not that I don't have fond memories of the old ballpark. Growing up on the west side of Detroit, I enjoyed many a Saturday afternoon and summer night there. It was close to home and inexpensive, especially with bleacher tickets or obstructed view seats. My first date with with my husband, Eric, was also at Tiger Stadium. Despite 21 years of wedded bliss, that doesn't seem like a good reason to keep the ballpark alive, though.

I also have wonderful memories of grocery shopping with my mom at Great Scott at Michigan and Schaefer in Dearborn, but there was no hue and cry when that closed. The small Catholic high school I attended is also closed. How dare they? The Whole Foods near my house is relocating to a larger location. They can't do that! I used to be able to walk there to get my fill of Vegan-friendly fare. Okay, so I hardly ever went there, but so what? Many of my favorite professors at Wayne State have now retired. That shouldn't be allowed, because they were my teachers once I and I liked knowing they were still there. Okay, you get the picture. Life moves on, with or without us. The future is far too exciting to dwell on the past, especially when fond memories will suffice.


Detroit is not a city that moves on well. Fox 2's Fanchon Stinger is this week's personal case in point. I eagerly read her response to reports of her involvement in the Synagro sludge debacle. My first thought after reading her statement was neither an impression of innocence or guilt; rather, it was whether she used Roget's Thesaurus to amass the number of superlatives used to describe her outrage at reports that she was involved with Synagro. Here's a sample: "scandalous allegations", "blatant misrepresentations", "tawdry allegations", "excruciatingly difficult", "systemic, strategic and malicious dismantling of my reputation..." Whew! I was emotionally exhausted just reading it. Of course my second thought was of innocence or guilt. Thou thinks she doth protesteth too much? (I'm probably not quoting that exactly, but because my WSU Shakespeare professor is likely retired too, it doesn't matter.)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Compuware 1.0 + Compuware 2.0 =Compuware I Don't Know

It's official. Even Compuware officials have no idea what the company does. Read my blog post from February 13th and then read the excerpted Q&A from today's Detroit News interview with Compuware COO Bob Paul.

Q : So how does Compuware 2.0 differ from Compuware 1.0?

A : We'd been focused on many, many different products which span a wide variety of information technology services. We do a lot of things in a lot of places around the world and Compuware 1.0 has been built around being a master of many different things, rather than a master of a few. So that's part of the difference between Compuware 1.0 and Compuware 2.0. Compuware 2.0 is much more about those things that can bring the maximum value to our customers, and that allows for breakout growth.

This less than succinct reply compels Detroit PR Guru to respond in kind and ask, "Huh?"

Remove the reference to information technology services and Mr. Paul has just described approximately 100,000 U.S. based companies. I don't blame Mr. Paul, though. He's been affiliated with Compuware since 2004 but has only been COO since April. It appears to take decades to actually describe, in non-consultantese English, what Compuware does. Meetings must be rather interesting there. No one knows what the company does, but they are all trying to package and sell its mystery services and products to global corporations, Wall Street and even colleagues. (I think Dilbert works there.)

It'd hard to resist tying all this gibberish into a neat little bow when considering the recent paraphrased words of Compuware founder and CEO Peter Karmanos. He supports Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick because, "He's the best that we've got." Apparently, nonsense begets nonsense when it comes to Compuware wordsmithing.

Monday, May 12, 2008

When Crisis PR Professionals Face A Crisis

This week's issue of Crain's Detroit Business profiles national PR expert (note: not PR guru) Judy Smith of Washington, D.C.-based Impact Strategies. It's interesting to note that Ms. Smith cites seven bullet points that serve as the ABC's of Crisis PR. Well, okay, that's not interesting. What is interesting is that her client, Kwame Kilpatrick, is not following any of them. He was almost laughed off the stage when he said at a public forum a few weeks back that he couldn't resign because the city would be plunged into chaos. Methinks the Mayor has spent too long looking at that visual representation of the word "Chaos" that morphs into the word "Order" when stared at intensely. Well to be fair, Mr. Mayor has tried to divert attention away from the crisis (Refocus Attention - bullet point #6) by highlighting other city crises, er, I mean successes, but that requires about a column inch of news. Hence, the media heads back to the main crisis.

Bullet point #5 presents a conundrum for the Mayor. It requires having a "truth squad" to monitor what's being said against what is true. Regrettably, his truth squad lies about published media reports that are, alas, true.

For crisis communications strategies that actually have meaning, I refer my readers to my blog post of April 15. In the meantime, I'd strongly advise Ms. Smith to resign this account. It's bad for her business.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Crisis Communications 101

Tell the truth. Tell it immediately. Tell it often. Go back to work.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Detroit's Mayor has Nowhere to Go

The New York Time's Nick Bunkley notes today there is increasing pressure on Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick to resign (

With Eliot Spitzer's fall from grace and near immediate resignation earlier this week, many Detroit media folks have suggested Kilpatrick should follow Spitzer's example. What I haven't seen written is the reality that the Mayor has nowhere to go. He's burned almost all of his business connection bridges in Detroit; he never worked as an attorney, and even if he had, his law license is in jeopardy; he doesn't come from a wealthy family; his wife doesn't currently bring in a second income; his lovely home (the Manoogian Mansion), expensive cars and an immense security detail are paid for by the City; and his social and business calendar are filled with exciting, star-studded local, national and international travel and events also paid for by the City.

I think the Mayor should resign. But would I resign if I were him? He's already given up his dignity and credibility, but I don't think anything shy of a legal order can pry him away from his current life of luxury.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

On Hermes Scarves and Soon-To-Be Governor Patterson

Was that an Hermes scarf Silda was wearing at her husband's resignation press conference today? (If so, definitely not an Ann Taylor purchase!) My generous brother, Peter, bestows that ultimate fashion accessory on his dear sisters for their 50th birthday. For once, I wish I was older! Until then, I'll have to borrow from my three (much older) sisters. In the meantime, I suspect Silda will be avoiding the press conference scene for awhile. (BTW, Detroit's first lady Carlita Kilpatrick's outfit at last night's state of the city address must have tumbled out of John Travolta's closet from Saturday Night Fever: white suit and black ruffled shirt. Thankfully, she never made any famous disco dance poses.)

Kudos to new New York Governor David Patterson! Not for being the first black governor of New York, as the media consistently point out, but for his amazing accomplishments as a man who is blind. My dear friend and client, Cynthia Kidder, founder of Band of Angels (, has taught me so much about viewing people with physical and cognitive impairments. "Focus on the sameness, not the differences!" Accordingly, Mr. Patterson should be held to the same high standards that a governor role commands. That doesn't mean we can't celebrate his accomplishments, though.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Hmmm...What to Wear to a Public Humiliation?

I did a double take yesterday when I received a WSJ news blast that New York Governor and famed corruption crusading former NY Attorney General Eliot Spitzer was being investigated for soliciting a prostitute. (Kwame Kilpatrick thanks you for the breather, Mr. Spitzer.) Watching the press conference with Mr. Spitzer's cloaked apology, I couldn't help but feel pain for his attractive wife, Silda.

Public apologies over real or alleged marital infidelities seem to be all the rage these days. So much so that it appears high profile, married women may need a public humiliation outfit in their closet - just in case. Makes me recall an interview a few years back with the CEO of Ann Taylor (one of my favorite stores). She said while Ann Taylor Loft customers might ask, "What do I feel like wearing today?" Ann Taylor shoppers are more concerned with having the appropriate attire. They ask "Who am I meeting with today?" Can't you just envision a woman explaining to the Ann Taylor sales clerk that she needs an outfit that complements a type of public death? Funereal but not necessarily black; stylish but not too trendy. Something that looks good on TV and You Tube but will also garner sympathy and perhaps even a few compliments from fashion writers.

With her black slacks, teal blue jacket and pearls, Ms. Spitzer ( I think she dropped the Mrs. yesterday) can say mission accomplished.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Michelle Obama and Jackie O

A recent Newsweek cover has a picture of Michelle Obama in a lovely, sleeveless purple sheath. I thought it was interesting, though, that she would be photographed in a sleeveless dress, especially in February (knowing that Illinois' winter has been no kinder than Michigan's). Alas, Ms. Obama's handlers must be doing their homework. Last weekend's Saturday Wall Street Journal did a favorable fashion piece comparing Michelle Obama to Jackie O. Sure enough, in photo comparisons between Michelle and Jackie, Jackie is featured in a sleeveless dress almost identical to the one Michelle is wearing in Newsweek. Coincidence? O no.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

McCain's Prompt Reaction to Articles a Good PR Move

John McCain's response to allegations in the New York Times and the Washington Post that he had an improper relationship with a lobbyist was right on in terms of public relations. He reacted quickly after the potential scandal hit the papers today (although the New York Times' article said he refused requests for interviews in December) and held a press conference this morning denying any improper personal relationship or unethical decisions made as a result of the relationship. We shall see how the story plays out but addressing the issues immediately after a scandal or controversy breaks is almost always the way to go.

It's hard not to compare this response to Kwame Kilpatrick's following the Detroit Free Press' front page story about an affair between Kwame and his chief of staff and thousands of sexually charged text messages. Detroit's mayor was officially silent for a week, although it appears he may have found time for some more inappropriate conversations in a hot tub down South. Bad PR move! When he did speak, he sought sanctuary in church, another bad PR move! I know I mentioned that in a previous posting, but it still galls me!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The New Compuware

I look forward to hearing more about the announcement on Compuware 2.0. It should give me a better idea of what Compuware 1.0 actually does. BF

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Musings on Detroit area PR Happenings

What better time to start a PR blog in the Detroit area than now? With Kwame Kilpatrick on an "assignment from God" in his tenuous role as Mayor of Detroit, I'm also on assignment, though not from God, to comment on various PR happenings in the Detroit area and throughout the state. I'm still shaking my head at the Mayor holding a press conference (sans the press - bad move) in church. Separation of church and state issues come to mind...and why was the lovely Carlita Kilpatrick dressed as a man during Kwame's apology? Another bad PR seemed unnatural and forced. BF