Saturday, January 22, 2005

Sydney Falco's Top Ten Rules for PR Stunts, err uh, Promotions

Heidi Cohen contributed this good ClickZ Network article on how to create and measure buzz with online promotions.

Tip o'the hat to colleague Peter Shankman who receives several mentions.

Sydney Falco, another colleague, who insists I always use his nom de publicité when blogging, sent me the following Top Ten Rules for PR Stunts:


1. Keep it simple – the fewer moving parts the better.

2. Make it "high concept" -- Can you describe it in 10 words or less?

3. Make it sexy -- If you can't make a story like managed web hosting
sexy, then go work for Amway.

4. If you can't make it sexy and you don't want to work for Amway, then
make it sensational -- add emotion, scandal, danger, humor or weirdness.

5. Tie it to your business goals -- Will streaking through Shea stadium
actually sell more widgets?

6. Maintain your news cycle -- Name a baby Turok after a video game and you get one wave; hold traveling baby Turok challenges in large states with big media towns and the story lives longer.

7. Ratchet your concept up a notch or two and get more coverage --
Example: A beauty contest for geeks is OK, calling it Sexiest Geek
Alive to poke fun of the popular kids in People Magazine is better, and
pointing out to the press the scandalous chauvinism of your own contest -- even better.

8. Create seasonal tie ins -- If you keep one reporter from doing one
more Easter egg hunt
, you earn a life-long friend.

9. Keep in mind that PR stunts are ultimately about building long-term
media relationships -- Make them laugh and editors will always return calls, years after the fact.

10. Allow the reporters the opportunity to be reporters -- allow for
clever word play and snarky puns; be willing to make yourself a target
while keeping a straight face.

-30- -30- -30-

I might add that when it all goes wrong, see Avoiding PR Disasters to try to contain the crises.


Thursday, January 20, 2005

PR for Dummies: Fort Wayne IN needs some help - Looking for signs of intelligent life in Fort Wayne

This USA Today story interviews the intelligentsia of Fort Wayne, IN after a Men's Health magazine survey named this fair city the dumbest city in America.

Quoth USA Today: "The survey is the talk of the town, or at least among those who read, and there appear to be thousands..."

"...Columnist Kevin Leininger suggested it was basically "an evil Liberal Media Conspiracy." He pointed out that eight of the 10 smartest cities were in blue states, and eight of the dumbest were in red states. He says it's not a coincidence that "a certain amount of cultural elitism was at work here."


This just explains why Bush did so well in those eight red states.

You'd think Mr. Leininger, a member of the Fourth Estate, would know not to argue with people who buy ink by the barrel.

Then again he does live in Fort Wayne.

City leaders will need to get in front of this story fast, or be labled the Jessica Simpson of cities for all eternity.

In fact, the bimbo brand is already beginning to stick:

“I’ve seen some dumb things in my life, but I haven’t seen as many as I have this week,” says a police officer watching typical Fort Waynians drive around "road closed" barriers and into flooded streets.


Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Attention Martha Stewart, Ken Lay, Bernie Ebbers, John Riggas, Paris Hilton

Do you have a need to rehabilitate your image?

What sort of foot print have you left on the Internet? When reporters or employers Google your name do they find your carefully crafted key messages? Or are the first ten items penned by some unemployed crank who wears a tin foil hat to stop the X-rays emanating from your company's products?

If you have the budget, you can drive Mr. Tin Foil down in the rankings by issuing press release after press release.

**Roll commercial***

Press release on BusinessWire or PRNewswire: $600-1000 USD

Your reputation: priceless


Still, with bailbondsmen, lawyers and all, sometimes it's hard.

Here's a solution that's free for the first year, $50 a yr, thereafter.

Post your profile on Ziggs.

The company claims its back end work with search engines
will keep your best side always toward the public while Mr. Tin Foil can go back stalking Brad Pitt.

Here's my profile on Ziggs.

And even though I'm hardly a celebrity, here's some of the silliness that I've had to overcome from Mr. Tin Foil.

And if you're still lurking, ya git, Angelina Jolie and I are just friends.


Free Porn Magic for You!

Opinion Column from PC Magazine: Free Porn Magic for You!

Dvorak says using the words "free," "porn" and "magic" in a headline will increase traffic for you. He writes that two years ago he put the headline "Free Porn" over his column and that column is still among the top page views, month after month.

Let's see if the same headline voodoo works for me, as well.

In the earlier days of the Internets [sic], webmasters use to tweak their meta tags to say things like "Nude pics of Britney Spears" to drive traffic. If you're thinking of paying frequent visits to Yahoo! Buzz Index to glom the best meta tags like "Paris Hilton" or "Golden Globe Awards," fuhghedaboutit.

The search engines quickly caught on to this trick.

Wired News reported back in August that the porn sites were creating mutliple blogs that cross reference each other to cheat their Google rankings. And yesterday CNET News reported that Google has created a new "no follow" tag that will keep people from posting comment spam that falsely drives up traffic.

But the recursive cross-referencing across multiple blogs ploy still works, right?


Overstock vs Ebay: Poet Robert Frost was a stock analyst

Take a look at this morning's chart comparing Overstock versus eBay. Posted by Hello

Looks like Wall Street is going down Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken,"

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."


eBay earnings (melo)drama

eBay Puts Loyalty to the Test

"Get ready for a bit of drama during eBay's (EBAY:Nasdaq ) earnings report Wednesday," writes Kevin Kelleher for

Some eBay sellers have lashed out over a recent fee increase: "Thanks eBay! This $3,000+ per month seller is done for good on Feb. 17," writes one Power Seller on the company's message boards.

Meanwhile over at, their online
auctions have increased 50 percent in the five days since eBay's announcement.

What you're seeing is a repeated pattern at eBay.

My friend and ex-client, Eric Jackson, has written an excellent book called "The PayPal Wars: Battles with eBay, the Media, the Mafia, and the Rest of Planet Earth." Back when Eric soldiered for PayPal as the company's marketing director, he witnessed many a ham-fisted, bone-headed maneuver from his competitors over at eBay.

Yeah, this is a naked book plug.

However, despite my blind loyalty, this book should be required reading for every eBay investor and MBA student in the country. In fact, here's a professor who says the same thing:

"The Genius and Struggle of PayPal" -- Ludwig von Mises Institute


Monday, January 17, 2005

Bill Gates' Nipple Slip, Part 2

Ewww! Posted by Hello


Bill Gates' Nipple Slip

monkey methods: Bill Gates Strikes a Pose for Teen Beat Photospread, 1983

Just kidding. And just wondering if that subject line will boost or bust my blog's traffic.

Do check out these Teen Beat-style photos of young Bill Gates posing like a geeked-out David Cassidy.

Seriously, though, is that a Mac I spy behind the recumbent Billy "Boy Toy" Gates? Does this count as a "marketing malfunction?" And in this parallel universe of boy band/technology monopolists is Bill the "cute one" or the "smart one?"

And how does Steve Ballmer fit in to this equation?


Craigslist: It's Craigsworld, we just post in it

Craigslist's global expansion could threaten big players

Eric Pfanner has written an excellent article on the nicest man in the world, Craig Newmark, is taking over the world one city at a time. This man doesn't own a dog, yet he carries dog biscuits in his pockets to give out to all the dogs he encounters on the streets of San Francisco.

I wish Craigslist had the same reach here in Austin as it does in San Francisco. It works so well in the Bay Area because everyone there is on it. I found three jobs and two apartments on Craigslist. And when we moved, I typed in "cardboard boxes" and found several people who had just unpacked and were giving their boxes away to anyone willing to drive by.

During the Bust, we moved from a 2 bdrm apartment down to a 1 bdrm. So to make room, we sold and bought everything we needed through Craigslist. We had a coral colored chaise lounge that we sold to an interior designer. A year later we're watching HGTV and my wife recognizes the designer.

"Omigawd, that's our chaise lounge," says my wife.

Ah, the circle of life is complete.


Sunday, January 16, 2005

Bloggers are Weenies: Old school journalists kick butt

Buy this book. Posted by Hello


My dad, "filmed one of the iconic images of American history: Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald in the basement of the Dallas police headquarters" | Four journalists recount the dark days in Dallas that changed news

(reg. required: or, better yet, go to: BugMeNot. )

Austin American Statesman Review

Four journalists recount the dark days in Dallas that changed news

By Felix Gillette


Sunday, January 16, 2005

As a 24-year-old cub reporter, George Phenix filmed one of the iconic images of American history: Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald in the basement of the Dallas police headquarters. At the time, Phenix was working for KRLD, a CBS radio and television affiliate. That afternoon, his film was broadcast nationally. Millions of Americans watched the scene of Oswald crumpling. Behind the camera, Phenix's cub status also was taking a hit.

Along with three of his then-colleagues at KRLD -- Bob Huffaker, Bill Mercer and Wes Wise -- Phenix has recently published a memoir of the Kennedy assassination, "When the News Went Live: Dallas 1963." In it, Phenix recounts how a few weeks after the shooting, he snuck into the station and developed a roll of the film as a souvenir. His two toddlers quickly got their hands on the keepsake. "They imagined it to be some sort of new kind of yo-yo," writes Phenix, "and repeatedly rolled it up and down the hallway -- ruined it."

[He-heh: My sister and I were on the CIA payroll and we were actually born in Cuba. Switched at birth, we were, with George Phenix's REAL KIDS, to complete our mission and destroy all the evidence. Shhh, don't tell anyone else, OK? --El Fenix]

When Phenix sat down 40 years later to set his experiences to paper, he realized that grim memories die harder than old rolls of film. He didn't need any visual cues to recall the details. "I wrote it in one pass," says Phenix during a recent telephone interview. "I was surprised. It had been indelibly burned into me. It's just kind of part of (my) DNA."

During the course of the book, each author recounts his role covering John F. Kennedy's assassination. Wise, who was attending a luncheon in Kennedy's honor in downtown Dallas, remembers the reactions of the people around him when the news first broke. "A young man stood facing a wall, propping his left arm against it and burying his head in his forearm, sobbing uncontrollably," writes Wise. "In bizarre contrast, to my shock and dismay, a man at our table continued to stuff a steak into his mouth."

For the four young reporters, there wasn't much time to eat. Or sleep. Or grieve. Within minutes, they were broadcasting the unfolding events. In the coming weeks and months, Huffaker interviewed Oswald's mother, Mercer covered Oswald's midnight news conference, Phenix filmed Oswald's murder and Wise testified at Ruby's trial. "If we weren't professionals before the assassination," writes Mercer, "we certainly achieved that status in the aftermath."

Each of the authors went on to distinguished careers. Huffaker became an English professor at Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos and an editor at Texas Monthly. Mercer broadcast games for the Dallas Cowboys, the Texas Rangers and the Chicago White Sox. Wise wrote for Sports Illustrated and served as mayor of Dallas for five years in the '70s. Phenix, who lives in Austin, co-founded the Texas Weekly and was editor of the Westlake Picayune.

"The interesting thing is that our tools were so primitive in those days," recalls Phenix. "There were no cell phones, no faxes, no e-mail."

And no second gunman lurking on the grassy knoll. From the get-go, the authors declare themselves "weary of conspiracy theories." Throughout, they avoid any rote speculation about Oswald's motivations. There are no flights of fancy buzzing through the murky backrooms of Cuban apparatchiks or Mafia hit men. Instead, the narrative remains grounded in the streets of Dallas. It's a sobering antidote to the staggering paranoia of, say, Oliver Stone's "JFK." In pithy, laconic prose the authors lay out the who, what, when and where of the heart-rending events. The bloody parade. The search for Oswald. Ruby's mental unraveling at the subsequent trials.

To this familiar set of episodes and characters, the four men sprinkle in personal details based on what they reported -- and what they didn't report. Wise recounts how, on the day following Kennedy's assassination, he bumped into a disgruntled Ruby outside the Texas School Book Depository. Like all Dallas broadcasters, Wise knew Ruby, whom he describes as "the ultimate news reporter groupie of his day." After a brief discussion, Wise brushed him off. "Reflecting on that conversation, I have wondered whether Ruby was hoping that I might do a radio interview with him," writes Wise. "Such a thing would have been a historic part of that sad weekend's coverage."

Throughout "When the News Went Live," the authors advance the less-than-radical theory that the assassination was a turning point not only for world history but also for broadcast journalism. They argue that the round-the-clock coverage of the assassination changed television news, paving the way for such future cable-TV obsessions as O.J. Simpson and Scott Peterson.

It's a bittersweet legacy. Phenix says that today's cable news networks have taken something of value and ruined it, like a bunch of youngsters playing yo-yo with a precious roll of film. "For me, the question is: Has TV news helped make America smarter? Or dumber?" writes Phenix. "I vote for the latter."

Austin journalist Felix Gillette writes frequently for


My buddy Brad is MIA

Brad King, My Friend & Milk Carton Kid. Or, just a typical journalist

Have you seen this man? We use to friends but he moved to Boston and now he doesn't return my emails. I'm worried about him. If you know him, have him call me and tell me that all is OK. Posted by Hello


The Sexiest Geek Alive

Salon Technology | Who wants to be the sexiest geek alive?

"Phenix, ever the promoter, didn't miss the opportunity to shamelessly plug his company, appearing on [Good Morning America] wearing a T-shirt with ClubCastLive's URL emblazoned on the front."

--Salon Posted by Hello