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.