Media Commentary

How To Fire Up Your Media Relations Efforts.

Posted on July 3, 2014. Filed under: Creative Marketing, Media Commentary, Minneapolis, Public Relations, Public Relations Commentary, Public Relations Pointers, Public relations practices, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , |

Is traditional media relations dead? Not by a long shot. People still rely on the traditional news media for news. They may not receive the news in the traditional way, e.g. home-delivered newspapers or by faithfully tuning into the 10 p.m. television newscast. But they’re still paying attention to the news.

Which means it still pays for companies to invest in traditional media relations programs. By that, I mean a program in which news coverage is actively pursued by an actual human being attempting to make personal contact with other actual human beings. The “other actual human beings” in this case being, news people. 5Centurions1

It also means thinking through a media relations strategy.  Even better, a strategy might take into account multiple opportunities for creating news over a period of time — several months, six months, a year.

Go Beyond Doing ‘Some Public Relations’

Now I see a lot of people using press release distribution services to disseminate news about their companies. Some are of the paid variety, others free, or at least so low-cost as to be nearly free. Many come from small- to mid-size companies, in what appears to me to be an attempt to do “some public relations.” As in, we’ve got news, we should put out a press release!

If you have news, by all means put out a press release. But wait! Have you thought it through? Do you know what you’re trying to accomplish with this press release? Is it written in such a way as to appeal to news people? Does it conform to AP style? Is it interesting? Do you have graphics – photos, charts, etc. — to help make your story more compelling? Links to online supporting video?

Do you have a larger media relations strategy in place, such as one that identifies key news making opportunities for the company over time — and sets out a plan for pursuing those opportunities to your fullest advantage?

If You Release It, Many Still Won’t See It.

Recently, I helped a client get major news out about a win in a court case. The news was of both local (metro) and national significance. We agreed to put a press release out on one of the major paid news distribution wires. The release would hit all the major business and consumer media in the country — including almost all daily newspapers, television and radio news stations. Key editors covering our type of news were targeted.

Out went the release. In came a barrage of “hits” — mostly verbatim pickup of the release on a variety of web-based news sites that subscribe to the news distribution service. Nice, but not really high-caliber hits — the kind where a reporter is so struck by your news that he/she calls or emails to get more information.

Even before sending the release out on the wire, I had contacted a number of key reporters and editors to alert them to the news. (Did I know all these people? Certainly not. But I figured they would likely be most interested in the news, because it landed on their “beats.”) Most of the reporters I talked with were happy to hear from me. In many instances, they wanted much more information — including a copy of the court transcript — and they wanted to personally interview my client.

As the day went on, I called and emailed numerous other reporters, locally and nationally. Almost to a person, none had seen the press release that went out on the wire earlier that day. None. Even though it was news specifically pertinent to their beats — and of high interest to their audiences — they were unaware of the news until I brought it to their attention. Many of them did in fact request more information. Some wanted to speak with my client, Some very significant stories resulted. The news coverage — specifically that which came about from the personal contacts with the media — wound up generating more business for my client. Which was the ultimate goal of the press release and media relations approach.

I say all this not to toot my own media relations horn (although I can’t deny doing some of that) but to point out the fallacy of thinking the job is complete by simply sending out a press release. Or even doing a bit of media relations follow-up. if you’ve got news, make the most of it! Do the hard media relations work — and it is hard, time-consuming work to get the media’s attention, make no mistake — of leveraging your news to its fullest extent.

You may be surprised at how far your news travels — when it’s assertively presented and pitched.

Doug Hovelson, author of this blog post, is an experienced media relations and public relations professional working out of Minneapolis. Some might call him a media junkie, in a good way. He’s written and placed thousands of press releases and company stories in almost every media outlet known to humankind. He’s always delighted to talk media relations strategies with people who want to see if they can do more with their media relations efforts. He can be reached at 612-722-5501 or at doughovelson AT MSN Dot COM.

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To Avoid Media Mishaps, Think Like A Bank Robber.

Posted on June 12, 2014. Filed under: Media Commentary, Public Relations, Public Relations Commentary, Public Relations Pointers, Public relations practices | Tags: , , , , , , |

[Blogger’s Note: I take a semi-facetious tone in the article, but it’s a dead serious topic for businesses too. You always want to have a strategy in mind when talking with the news media. If you don’t know what you want to say to the media, don’t say anything.]

We’ve all seen it happen. Someone in a position of authority, such as a client, gets to chatting with a member of the media. The reporter is knowledgeable about the client’s industry; they know some of the same people; they start trading names and opinions, etc. Just shop talk, right?

Before you know it, the client lets his/her guard down — and starts injecting confidential information into the conversation.

What’s the harm? It’s just shop talk, right?

But the reporter’s on the clock.

Tripped Up While Tripping The Light Fantastic.

There’s a good way to think about watching what you say around reporters, especially the ones who cover your industry, company, etc.

Crime fiction offers a lesson in knowing when to hold your tongue. The bad guys know that every time they talk to a cop — even if it’s midnight in some honky-tonk bar somewhere and the cop seems to be enjoying the nightlife as much as they are — they are at risk of inadvertently incriminating themselves.

Sorry, Officer. We Can Let That One Go, Hey?

With one slip of the tongue, they might say something like, “Naw, we didn’t use that dim-wit Freddie on the bank job. Whadd’ya think, we’re crazy?” Oops. Cat’s out of the bag now, and can’t be coaxed back into it either. The cop’s probably not going to say something like, “Well, somebody was thinking straight there, keeping Freddie off that job.”

Nope, the cop’s now got knowledge that the bad guy was in on the heist. Just because the admission was made during a seemingly friendly, off-the-record conversation doesn’t mean squat. No rules were set, just two guys talking. Our guy reveals he was involved in a major crime. What’s the cop going to do? Tell him not to worry, since he’s off-duty and everything said to an off-duty cop is off-the-record?

Probably not. What’s probably going to happen is that the cop will either arrest him on the spot, call it in, or report it to whoever’s in charge of the bank job investigation. And our man, Mr. Bad Guy, gets yanked off to jail, protesting all the while that he didn’t know that what he said was on the record.

Better That The Cat Has Your Tongue Than It Crawls Out Of The Bag.

Same idea applies when talking to the media. They’re not bad people. They’re good people, most of them, but if they get a hold of a piece of information that can lead to a big story, they’re going to run with it. Odds are the client/confidential information leaker is not going to be able to talk the reporter — or the reporter’s editor — out of doing the story just because the information was shared in an informal manner.

These kind of situations do happen. People get careless, let slip something they shouldn’t, then realize they can’t take their words back. A good PR person might be able to mitigate the damage, but it is really hard to get that darned cat back in the bag again. Best not to let it out in the first place.

Oh, The Outrage! The Betrayal! Say It Ain’t So!

Tragically, some people, also known as clients, let such avoidable situations sour them on the whole idea of media relations in general. Or they get down on the particular reporter for “burning” them. “Never again will we deal with either that reporter or the rag he/she works for!” the client may bluster. “They can forget about any advertising from us, too!”

It happens, probably more often that you think. It’s very unfortunate when it does happen. All kinds of bad things can happen, once the beans are  spilled.

So take a page from our friendly if misguided bank robber. Never mistake a reporter, especially one that you don’t know well, for a confidant. If you want to go off the record with a reporter, negotiate that up front — and keep in mind that you’re playing a high stakes game. Even off the record stuff often shows up in print or on TMZ.

Maybe the best approach is that suggested by the criminal mind after all. The savvy bank robber, assuming he wants to retain his freedom and enjoy spending his ill-gotten gains, knows the risks of implicating himself, even off-handedly, in the caper. He knows that once he talks — even to his drinking buddy cop friend — he can’t take it back. His words will show up in a police report, which will be very unpleasant for him.

Just Don’t Do It!

There’s the best advice to keep in mind when talking with a reporter, formally or informally. Think before you speak. Think, “how will this look in print” (or on TMZ, assuming you have celeb cred)? It can save you endless hours of gnashing your teeth and scrambling (most likely in vain) to put out a fire that you yourself started.

But if you do say more than you should, best advice is to not try to put out the fire by yourself. Avail yourself of professional PR resources, the best you can get, to at least mount a credible job of damage control.

Doug Hovelson, author of this blog post, is an experienced media relations and public relations professional working out of Minneapolis. He’s helped dozens of companies – from Fortune 500 size to start-ups — grow their businesses with effective media relations programs. (He’s never robbed a bank, however.) He’s always delighted to talk media relations strategies with people who want to see if they can do more with their media relations efforts. He can be reached at 612-722-5501 or at doughovelson AT MSN Dot COM.

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General Motors’ ‘Not My Problem’ Problem.

Posted on June 10, 2014. Filed under: Media Commentary, Public Relations | Tags: , , , , |

Corporate culture gets the blame for the ignition-switch debacle at General Motors. It’s infuriating to think that people who knew better allowed the problem with the faulty ignition switches to persist after it first surfaced as a potentially lethal threat to drivers. The “solutions” offered up by the in-house geniuses included telling customers to remove all but their car key from their key chains so they wouldn’t weigh down the ignition switch while driving.

It makes you wonder, would these same people have advised their children to own and drive these hellish machines? Only a fool would have done so, knowing that something so innocuous as an accidental bump of the key chain with a knee — or just hitting a pothole — could trigger a disastrous lockup of the vehicle’s drive system. About the only use for such a car would be to sell it to the bad guys overseas — you know, our worst enemies — in the hope that it would take out a top terrorist or two. A CIA special, in other words.

It’s hard to see how this one got by the design engineers. Ignition switches aren’t products of rocket science. They’re known devices, about as complicated to automotive engineers as regular home on-off wall-mounted lighting switches are to certified electricians.

GM was a basket case at the time, sliding towards bankruptcy and its eventual emergence as Government Motors. Employees were demoralized, uncertain about their futures, frightened. That’s no excuse for what happened though. People inside GM signed off on the idea of staying quiet about the defective component. Callous, irresponsible, criminal, all words that come to mind to describe the mindset. An “I don’t give a damn if somebody gets killed. It’s not my problem.” mentality.

New GM CEO Mary Barra has done a masterful job of persuading the public that the new GM will be different from the old one. Gone will be the buck-passing, tell-no-one, just-pretend-everything’s-fine culture of old. Let’s hope so.

Barra herself is the proud mother of teenaged children, according to a recent Forbes article. Maybe she should just tell the world that GM will build and market no car that isn’t safe enough for her own children to drive. That would signal a true culture shift at the world’s largest automaker.

[Addendum: ignorance of ignition switch recall is bliss to GM dealers, according to CNBC:]

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Pitching The Media, Channel Basics

Posted on April 3, 2014. Filed under: Media Commentary, Public Relations, Public Relations Commentary, Public Relations Pointers, Public relations practices, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Reporters even today, in this most post-modern of post-modern worlds to date, prefer to get their pitches from PR people under cover of email. Or, get this, they’ll even take a story idea by telephone — yes that strange little talking device that pre-dates even the VCR, microwave ovens and the use of the designated hitter in baseball — over getting hit up with an idea by, say, a Tweet.

Not to say that all reporters, news producers and the like eschew the social media avenues for pitch contacts. TV reporters and program producers seem to get an abundance of their story ideas from social media sources, according to the 2014 Vocus State of the Media Report. This makes sense, since television news is particularly keen on reaching out to viewers for news tips and just generally more open to engaging with viewers via social media.

Best Bet – Email!

Email emerges as the favorite medium for story pitching for a number of reasons. One, it’s private. Two, it’s fast and also because people pay more attention to what’s happening in the email streams than they do to what’s being beamed at them on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and the like. Three, it’s easier to keep track of pitches sent via email versus the social media circuits.

Keeping things private, Edward Snowden aside, is pretty much a given when working with the news media. Some news people — outside the aforementioned local TV news realm — are receptive to receiving tips via openly public media such as Twitter. But putting a story idea up on a public Twitter feed also cues competitors in to what a reporter may be doing. It’s no way to pitch an exclusive story, that’s for sure. Most reporters that I know and work with seem to work under the assumption that whatever story they’re doing is their own private business — and they just don’t want other people outside their organization to know what they’re working on until they’re ready to reveal it themselves. This makes email a better choice than a public Tweet, especially if you’re pitching a particular story angle to a particular reporter. Using the private DM channel on Twitter to contact a reporter is a better approach – assuming you have that option – but again, there’s the chance that the reporter isn’t checking the Twitter feedline that often.

By Any Means Possible

A nice option is to use Twitter as a story-pitch alerter – signaling the reporter that you’ve got a newsy idea to discuss, with a note that you’ve sent an email – if that’s the case or left a voice-mail message if that’s the case. Use it as another tool for getting a news person’s attention, in other words.

Reporters often use Facebook and LinkedIn as means of tracking down sources. LinkedIn has its advantages with its built-in InMail feature, which allows users to send private emails to others in the LinkedIn system.

I find Twitter to be of immense use as a media relations tool, less for direct pitching of stories than for staying informed about specific media outlets and reporters. In fact, I often find myself browsing through my list of people I’m following on Twitter to find reporters and media outlets that might be interested in stories I’m currently pitching. The list changes all the time, depending on what I’m working on.

Personal Contact Is Essential

But for pitching story ideas – when you’re the pitcher – the best approach still seems to be a combination of email and followup telephone contact, perhaps supplemented by contacts on Twitter and other social media outlets where the news person maintains a presence. The unsettling thing about email is that you’re never sure if your pitch has been seen by a reporter who probably gets bombarded by email all day long. (There are unobtrusive email tracking systems that you can use to see if your emails are being opened; they just let you know if and when someone’s clicked open your email. (I’m not real familiar with the technology, although I’m interested in hearing from anyone who does know how effective such systems are and so forth.)

And yet, there are no absolutes — whatever works best with individual reporters and news people is the best approach.

Active media relations is very challenging work. The digital age has made it all the more complicated and demanding. People who do media relations work well tend to live and breathe the media world. Many are former journalists — more of them now than say 10 years ago. Now I’m speaking of media relations as the practice of reaching out to the media to generate coverage for clients. This goes beyond the idea of simply pumping out a press release, throwing it out on a paid distribution service, and sitting back to see what happens. Many companies do this for quick-fix SEO – search engine optimization reasons. Nothing wrong with that. But if you’ve got a good story to tell, one that you believe should be of interest to the media, then it’s worth taking the time to personally pitch the story to the media as well. The keys to great results, as the Vocus study shows, are persistence and using the appropriate means of contact.

Good Stories Buried With The Bad

Let me finish with a quote from a reporter at a national news media outlets in Southern California, as identified in the Vocus report. The reporter responds to the question of whether she is open to receiving pitches via social media. Her response appears to indicate that she isn’t currently receiving many pitches via social media.

“Yes, I think. It is hard to say what the long-term effect of my social media experience will be if my Facebook instant message or Twitter Direct Message box becomes packed with pitches like my email box is now. I routinely miss important emails as it is now because they are buried within the stack of “story ideas.” I think a more elegant solution is ahead of us, I just don’t know what it is yet.” – See more at: VOCUS State of the Media Report.

She sums up the crux of the matter, from a media relations perspective, very well when she says that a lot of important emails get buried under the stack of story ideas in her email box. That’s where good media relations people earn their keep – by finding ways to call pitch-saturated reporters’ and editors’ attention to their clients’ good story ideas. (Because a good story is a terrible thing to waste, damn it!)

Hats off to VOCUS for doing the report.

Got a media relations story to share, commentary on my commentary, etc? I’d love to hear from you.

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At The End Of The Day, We Move Forward No More Forever

Posted on September 20, 2012. Filed under: Media Commentary, Ramblings, Sporting life, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

English: Don Mattingly in Dodgers dugout.

English: Don Mattingly in Dodgers dugout. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just two words of wisdom for today: Talk Normal*

Case in point:

“What I really want, at the end of the day, is to make sure we do the right thing for Clayton moving forward. I know we’ll do the right thing for him, so that’s not really a concern.” – Don Mattingly, Los Angeles Dodgers manager, speaking about injured pitcher Clayton Kershaw. (Quote from Sept. 18, 2012 Minneapolis Star Tribune, Sports, page C4)

Rewrite (just for our purposes):

“What I really want — and what this organization wants — is what’s best for Clayton.”

Editorial notes:

“Moving forward” – a transition phrase, perhaps once notable for being novel, it now sounds as empty of meaning as “awesome.” Delete with extreme prejudice. (See also: “going forward,” its equally obnoxious sibling.)

“At the end of the day” – what’s with this end of the day stuff? Do the cows come in at the end of the day? Of course they do. Was Rome built in a day? Of course not. Can we not get through one day without hearing someone, somewhere, in a position of somber authority, speaking of their earnest ambition to conclude something of a serious nature by the end of the bloody f’ing day???

No Offense Intended, Don

Sorry, Don Mattingly. I don’t mean to pick on you. I know you mean well. It’s just that, to see two such mindlessly over-used clichéd phrases in the same sentence, for God’s sake, it defies comprehension. It drew my attention, and I took a grammatical hack at it — somewhat like you used to have your fun battering a lazy down-the-middle fastball back in the day.

Editor’s note:

“Back in the day” – yadda, yadda, yadda, sounds like an early Jersey Boy phrase that went viral via some TV cop show outa New York and now passes for virile man-talk. Backinnaday ya know. Pack it in, back-in-the-day sayers. It’s lost most of the street smart cred that it had back in whatever day it slunk out of.

So, at the end of the day here, let’s quit embracing cliché-talk in our speech, okay?

Editor’s note:

“Embracing” — a psycho-babble-ish distortion of a perfectly good word — to embrace, to clasp in the arms. Now used with great unrestraint to show affinity, as in “she embraces the culture,” or “the author embraces the poor, the oppressed, the disenfranchised, the forgotten and the immoderate.” If those are the author’s people, so be it. Actually, it’s not so far-fetched to assume that a writer of the depths, such as a Dostoyevsky, actually does emotionally embrace the lives of some such as the Russian dispossessed, as he did with great feeling and insight. Not to banish non-physical/romantic references of embracing from the vocabulary, then, but to urge more judicious use of the word at minimum. (Note: no mention of being more judicious going forward!) Gandhi may well have embraced all of humanity. Most people have a hard enough time embracing close family members, much less the multitudinous masses. (No embracing on the job. That goes without saying.)

Well, then. That puts a period to the cliché problem for now.

* A nod to Tim Phillips, author of Talk Normal, Stop The Business Speak, Jargon and Waffle, published in 2011 by Kogan Page Limited, an excellent book in which the author argues that people are more effective when they just talk like normal people do.

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Tina Brown’s March Into Media Quicksand

Posted on September 18, 2012. Filed under: Media Commentary, Public Relations, Society | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Arianna Huffington and Tina Brown

Arianna Huffington and Tina Brown (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tina Brown, famed British bluepenciler who took Manhattan by storm yo some years back, takes a whipping in Michael Wolff’s USA Today Media column of Monday, Sept. 17, 2012 (Is There A Place For Tina Brown?.  Doyen of the old media, now on her last editorial legs, immersed in a merciless fight to the death to save Newsweek, all thoughts that come to mind about Ms. Brown after reading the piece.

Lawdy, lawdy, Ms. Tina sure do give it her all though, Wolff notes.

Newsweek may be a dying media beast, and the Daily Beast may be a wounded beast, but Brown is still fighting the good fight for traditional, e.g. quality, journalism, argues Wolff.

He makes a good point.

Another Time, Another Place

No use pining for the good old days of journalistic largesse, with its giants of the trade — too numerous and mind-numbing to mention by name. Those days are good and gone, kaput, faded as an old Soviet Red Star flag. In their place, sheer chaos, punctuated by the screams of the drowning. (Have you heard the one about how all the old-time journos are snarfing up those penny-per-pound article-writing jobs advertised so freely – and paying about the same — on freelance writer sites across the Internet? Not happening, so far as I can tell. Work-at-home eighth-graders can do a lot of that type of writing, and the pay will just about equate to what they would have got decades ago by taking on a paperboy job.)

Where Have All The Must-Reads Gone?

Well here’s some ways the media has changed:

  • New York Magazine once was a must read, no matter where you lived. (Assuming you worked in the advertising and PR fields.)
  • Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News & World Report were the holy triumvirate of U.S. news weeklies. Get a placement in one of those pubs and you were a star of incredible proportions.
  • Reading the Village Voice was to wallow weekly in the byzantine complexities of New York City municipal government, a monstrous operation that made for fascinating reading even in Far Stuckaway, North Dakota. Oh I know, nobody out in the hinterland really cared who was bribing who in the Big Apple – most of us just assumed everybody in New York was on the take — but it was like a soap opera for political junkies and conspiracy theorists. And the Voice personal ads, in that long-ago age of innocence, were more aimed at people wanting to find Mr. or Mrs. Goodbar, rather than a well, you know, short-term relationship of a more commercial nature. I always read the damned Voice — buying it off the late-lamented Shinder’s Newsstand on Hennepin Avenue — because I did so much media work in New York City and felt it gave me an edge to know what was up in the city. (And yes, I know there could be dire consequences to those engaged in the search for Mr. Goodbar as Diane Keaton’s character discovered in the movie Looking for Mr. Goodbar. Life in the age of The Personals was not always fun and games either.)

I could go on, but what’s the point? The media world has changed, long live the Big Media Age, and yet Tina Brown fights on, seeking relevancy at a time when very few people could name you even one major print media journalist. Go ahead. Throw some names out there. Niall Ferguson? How many folks in Peoria would know a Niall from a Ned Ferguson? What about Michael Wolff? Even Dear Abby’s not who or what she used to be.

When Newspapers Ruled

Oddly enough, just yesterday I was researching some material out of some really old back copies of the Minneapolis Tribune — by really old, I mean 1910-22 — and I was floored by how much stuff the newspaper covered. I mean, there were stories from all over the place, mostly wire-service, as if people back then were really interested in what was happening in other parts of the world. The Tribune even had a writer who went on a tour of Europe after the Great War and wrote about it. (McNally was his name, and he apparently did not much like the food they served visiting journalists, not quite up to snuff, although plentiful, even though vast numbers of the post-war population in Europe lived on the edge of starvation. At least one thing has not changed all these years later – food better be good, no matter whether it’s for a gathering of traditional journos or a bunch of new media upstarts pawing away at their smartphones.)

So we return once more to the fate of Tina Brown, exemplar of the old way of doing media, and her seemingly Sisyphean dream of creating a new media juggernaut at Newsweek. Wolff is sanguine, noting that Brown, as a self-confessed technophobe, is probably not ever going to get the new world of digital media right.

And yet, he says, the world as we know it has become a larger media wasteland since the fall of the old media. Now it’s chock-full of look-alike content creation, little of it notable, much of it under-funded, rudderless. The barbarians have over-run the gatekeepers. What’s needed, he argues, is a new Tina Brown for a digital age, someone to put quality, connectivity and profitability back into the journalism world. That’s not such a tall order as it seems. There are plenty of well-qualified writers and journalists about. What’s needed are more venues that can pay for their talents.

(Visit my website too: Big Thunder PR.)

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Digging Into The Bakken

Posted on August 25, 2012. Filed under: Bakken Formation, Media Commentary, Public Relations, Public relations practices | Tags: , , , , , , , |

English: An Oil Pump in western North Dakota

English: An Oil Pump in western North Dakota (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bakken Field update:

Petroleum News, an Anchorage, Alaska-based tabloid, is expanding its coverage of the Bakken Field region.

The newspaper now publishes Petroleum News Bakken every other week. The Bakken edition comes out every other week, as a multi-page supplement to the regular issue of Petroleum News.

Petroleum News plans to ramp up its coverage of the booming Bakken region with a weekly edition at some point in the near future, according to Julie Bembry, a circulation sales executive with the newspaper. I met her recently at a meeting of the Minnesota Bakken Formation Networking Group, a LinkedIn group started by David Frenkel. We met at the Mall of America I-HOP in Bloomington. Bembry took time out from her vacation in the Twin Cities to educate the group about Petroleum News and its commitment to be a prime source of news and information about the Bakken region.

Connecting Via Twin Cities LinkedIn Bakken Networking Group

The Bakken networking group was formed to help business people, investors and job seekers size up the opportunities in the North Dakota oil patch. It’s a good group, albeit small and in need of more members. Some of the members have spent time in the field in the Bakken area, so there’s real world information to be had from them.

I have a few extra copies of one of the recent issues of Petroleum News. If you’re interested in having a look, just let me know. It’s a great source of information for the Bakken for anyone with an interest in doing business in the region (j0b-seekers too). You can also check the publication out online too at Petroleum News website.

A few publications of note to those interested in the Bakken region:

North Dakota leads the nation in job production, according to a headline in today’s Bismarck Tribune. It’s not just the oil rig jobs that are in demand – service businesses such as restaurants, grocery stores (grocer Coburn’s is building out stores in North Dakota), construction companies, hotels and motels (they’re trying to limit the growth of the notorious man-camps in the area) are also ramping up and hiring.

The North Dakota Petroleum Council will hold its 2012 annual meeting Sept. 18-20 in Medora, ND. Registration is available at NDOIL. The event includes a golf tournament and an Old West BBQ, in addition to a full lineup of speakers.

A Williston-based company now offers day-long tours of the Bakken oil fields as well, according to the Unconventional Oil & Gas Center. Two tour dates, both for September, remain. Information here: Bakken Field Tours.

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Timely Tweets – Coincidence Or Celestial Magic?

Posted on August 1, 2012. Filed under: Media Commentary, Public Relations, Social Media | Tags: , , , |

Bertrand Russell

Bertrand Russell (Photo credit: Kevan)

Remarkable bit of serendipity – or perhaps further support for the idea that “there are no coincidences” – when these two Tweets arrived moments apart on my feed today:

Boing Boing@BoingBoing

After worst blackout in global history, India’s power minister rates his performance as “Excellent”

Bridget Cusick@BridgetCusick

“The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.” – Bertrand Russell

[Editor’s note: “There are no coincidences” attributed variously to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, James Redfield (The Celestine Prophecies), Elisabeth Kubler-Ross (death be not coincidental!) and that source of all sources, “old adage.”]


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Living Life, One Hollywood Line At A Time (Homage to Frank Pierson)

Posted on July 23, 2012. Filed under: Media Commentary, Movies, Society, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Hollywood Sign

Hollywood Sign (Photo credit: AtomicPope)

Memorable movie lines such as this come along rarely: “What we got here is failure to communicate.” Frank Pierson wrote that line while creating the script for Cool Hand Luke, the 1967 film that starred Paul Newman as a southern prison chain-gang member.

Pierson died today Hollywood writer dies. He also wrote the script for Dog Day Afternoon, and perhaps most unfortunately for him published a piece in the old New West magazine about the behind-the-scenes goings-on of Barbra Streisand, Jon Peters and Kris Kristofferson during the filming of A Star Is Born. Then as now, spilling the beans about the real lives of Hollywood heroes got you nothing but trouble with the studios.

Who among us, has never felt the urge to utter that line about the failure to communicate in response to a communications breakdown? (“Communications breakdown,” in itself a phrase made memorable by Led Zeppelin.)

Were You Paying Attention?

Hollywood, by God, supplies ready-made answers to a lot of our problems, personal and societal.

For example, one response to someone observing that “what we have is failure to communicate” is “You can’t handle the truth!” as mouthed by Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men.

Supposing you can’t handle the truth? It’s not the end of the world. Not if you’ve got good drugs, or, as Lily Tomlin put it, “Reality is a crutch for those who can’t handle drugs.”

Don’t Let The Unreal Get You Down.

Don’t take that flight from reality too far, though. Beautiful as life may look through rose-colored glasses, it’s also true that beauty can be a killer as seen in the demise of the love-addled ape in King Kong (“It was beauty killed the beast.”).

However, “Love is a many splendored thing,” as noted in the 1955 film of the same name.

Still, if love doesn’t work, we can still be friends, can’t we? “I found out what the secret to life is: friends. Best friends,” says Ninny (Jessica Tandy)  in Fried Green Tomatoes.

Girl Can’t Be Too Careful.

It might be easy for some to find friends, but caution must sometimes still be observed, especially in certain cities. “That’s a nice girl, that. But she ought to go careful in Vienna. Everybody ought to go careful in a city like this,” says Popescu in 1949’s The Third Man.

The same could be said about New Orleans, as Blanche DuBois (“I have always trusted in the kindness of strangers”) discovers in A Streetcar Named Desire. Although it was not strangers but her own sister’s husband, Stanley Kowalski — he who is famously “not a Polack” — who does her in.

A man’s got to know his limitations, according to no less an authority than Inspector Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood in Magnum Force). So it is that I have come to the limit of my blogging time today.

Before I go, let’s go one more quote: “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.” Straight out of the mouth of the gumptious hero of Forrest Gump and I’ll add that the same is true for writing. Sit down at a keyboard and start typing away, you never know what you’re going to get. Maybe something like this blog post, sometimes.

You could have asked Frank Pierson. His greatest one-liner just appeared on the page one day when he was working on the Cool Hand Luke script.

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Flash: I Like Newspapers

Posted on March 28, 2011. Filed under: Media Commentary, Public Relations | Tags: , , , , |

Theodore Dreiser

Theodore Dreiser, image via Wikipedia

Fired up over healthy Twitter conversation about the newspaper business today. Speculated that if someone showed up at the daily newspaper’s offices with the biggest story since Watergate, they’d just think you were a lunatic and call the cops.

My point is that newspapers need to be more accessible to people, quit acting like big shot corporations that put up walls between themselves and their customers.

I acknowledged that I was a hopeless newspaper romantic and insinuated that somewhere Theodore Dreiser is weeping over the state of newspapers today.

I perhaps would have been a happier person living in the early years of the 20th century…when newspapers were in their heyday and people relied on them for all news. Then again, I’d be pushing up daisies by now, so maybe not.

There was something about those Dreiser-era newspapers, nevertheless.

Sure the newspapers of yore had their drawbacks.

Women reporters were mostly confined to the society pages, for one – that’s one tradition that died out and we’re better off for it. Reporters were ill-paid and hard-used, but they had access, something that your average lumberjack in northern Minnesota or urban streetcar operator could only dream about. Mostly they seemed to do a good job of dramatizing the everyday world that people lived in back then. People paid attention. Newspapers gave important writers like Dreiser, Stephen Crane (okay, 19th century) and Ernest Hemingway a way to make a living while getting their fictional careers established.

All in all, I’d still like to see newspapers survive.

Maybe Radiohead can save newspapers: Radiohead to publish newspaper.

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Down With Risk; No Blood, No Late-Night Radio Foul

Posted on February 13, 2011. Filed under: Media Commentary, Public Relations, Ramblings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Lehman Brothers Rockefeller centre, via Wikipedia

Lehman Brothers Rockefeller Center

The Weekend Report:

Writing in The Wall Street Journal Weekend, Jason Zweig has a rip roaring good time poking holes in the latest work of investment wisdom from James K. Glassman. It was Glassman who co-penned the notorious “Dow 36,000” book, published in 1999 or not long before the start of one of the most dismal decades for investing ever. “Extremely exuberant” is a mild way to put Glassman’s 1999 view on stock investing.

It was Glassman who said that stocks are not risky then — and he apparently still holds to that view. Zweig quotes him as saying, “The data [still] show that stocks aren’t risky.” Although he’s now hedging his bets a bit more.

Lost In Space?

Say what, Mr. Glassman? What’s the name of this alternative universe that you inhabit, Mr. Glassman? Were you there, on planet Earth, in September 2008 when the stock markets collapsed in the wake of the Lehman Brothers bust? Stocks went down down down. Sure, the short-sellers — making book on stock market risk — were happy. But most investors, some perhaps still clinging to their copies of “Dow 36,000”, lost big-time. If they had money in, say, Countrywide Financial, Wachovia, General Motors, Colonial Bank, the names go on and on, they lost almost everything. No risk there?

Stocks in general have bounced back since then. But not all, many still trade well below their 2008 highs, and many were burnt to a crisp in the meltdown. People who bought into those stocks may view the market with a bit more jaded focus on the risk factor.

“Safety Net” is the name of Mr. Glassman’s new book, and Zweig gives him his due — noting that Glassman has written those three little words that financial gurus most abhor: “I was wrong,” But not so wrong about the risk of stocks? Maybe in theory, stocks should be a no-lose investment. Countries shouldn’t fight among themselves either, theoretically speaking.

Reading Has Its Own Risks

Zweig also tells of a new book written by Howard Marks, chairman of Oaktree Capital Management. “The Most Important Thing,” Mr. Marks’s forthcoming tome, is a “superb” book that helps explain risk clearly, Zweig writes. Sounds like a winner to me, although I’ll have to wait until I’ve actually read it to say for sure.

One thing’s for sure. I would approach anything written by Mr. Glassman with my risk evaluation attenae on high alert.

Nice Guys Live On — On Late-Night Radio

Meanwhile this radio guy does a talk show out of Boston, he’s got this doctor for a guest on his late-night show. Seems that the Doc has taken to writing about a historical family figure – a relative from the 19th century who put on trial for killing someone, perhaps a paramour or husband, who knows? I’m only paying attention to the show between loading up the clothes washer and taking out the garbage.

Anyway, the aforesaid Doc, in the course of the interview, allows as to how his relative, a female who was a loose woman by 19th century standards, was almost certainly guilt of the crime of murder. But he opines that the jury declined to find her guilty, not so much because she wasn’t the culprit, but because the state was just then starting to offer up electric chair executions. This new-fangled style of putting people to death was seen by many as being perhaps a more painful way of dying than, say, the tried-and-true method of hanging or firing squad.

Being considerate people, the jury let the accused off, said the Doc, in spite of the fact that she was in all likelihood guilty as charged – and the prosecution had proved it.

And so, our late-night host comes right back with the assertion that “well they couldn’t prove that she was guilty…” blah blah blah. Indicating his willingness to cut the lady in question, now long dead but obviously a woman of some spirit, a break. This despite the Doc’s own assertion that the lady was guilty, the jury most likely knew it, but didn’t want to send a poor woman to what was probably an unduly painful death. My takeaway was that the host was bending over backwards to make the guest feel appreciated — so much so that he failed to acknowledge what the guest had just said. It was as if he didn’t hear what his guest had just said, which is no way to treat a guest.

Crime Yes, Punishment, No

All of which made me think, well, this late-night radio guy, a nice guy from the sounds of it and a very personable chap, probably goes overboard in his efforts to not cause his guests to feel distressed by his questioning. No Porfiry Petrovitch, our radio man is charged instead with providing a pleasant listening experience for his stressed out late-night audience.

America’s a big place. More than 300 million people live here, which means there are more than 300 million stories to tell in this naked country alone. So why would radio hosts worry about having enough guests to fill out their air time?

So many stories, but people are not equally adept at telling their stories. Many people tend to stagger through their narratives, saying too much or — what’s even worse from the interviewer’s perspective — saying too little. They often over-explain, only natural for conscientious people who want to be sure their listeners understand what they’re saying, and end up boring the listeners to death — perhaps more than once. And as we all know, nothing kills talk radio so quickly as boring on-air talkers.

Talking points. That’s my advice to would-be stars of the talk-radio world. Work on your talking points. On radio, as in real-life occurrences such as when the cop stops you for speeding, it’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. Pre-conceived talking points can get you through almost any situation. Another way of saying it, one that we all learned in our high school days when we were called in to face the music by the school principal, is the old “let’s get our story straight” imperative.

Late-night talk show hosts have it tougher than most, though. For one, there’s the time barrier — not that many people with productive day time jobs are up and talking coherently in the middle of the night on a regular basis. They need their go-to regulars. And the regulars would be scared off if the host came on like the relentless interrogator Porfiry, who so mercilessly bedevilled Raskolnikov in Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment.

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