Posts Tagged ‘journalist’

Public Relations: Hotel Sites Should Re-Book Responses

Monday, March 24th, 2014

Public Relations:  Hotel Room

As an investigative reporter, I saw a trending response from companies accused of taking advantage of customers. The companies argued to me they were bound to encounter some criticisms considering their number of customers. The businesses then pointed out the number of complaints represented a small percentage of overall customers.

I didn’t buy this theory, which I believed posed two major pitfalls. First, these companies ended up facing my microphone not because consumers were upset. These businesses could have addressed and settled on solutions when customers first raised their concerns with them. But because the companies did not respond or responded poorly, a number of angry customers turned to organizations such as the Better Business Bureau. And when the BBB noticed a trend, it contacted the media. While the number of complaining customers may have represented a small percentage of overall business, the number is much more significant considering the amount of people who felt so fed up, they told their stories to a reporter such as myself.

The argument’s second pitfall is it doesn’t address the actual accusations. The response attempts to dismiss the complaints as a small pool of people without answering whether their concerns are legitimate.

A New York Times article again reminded me of this interaction between the media and companies under the journalistic microscope. The story questioned whether third-party hotel booking sites are misleading customers. One of the key complaints from people The Times interviewed is they can’t get refunds.

Someone The Times identified as a chief executive for a travel industry consulting company is quoted as saying, “People just don’t understand how online searches work.” I inferred this response as something akin to, “We’re not the problem. They are.”

Lesson:  When communicating with the media about complaints, don’t let customers infer they are to blame. That’s a tough sell if numerous customers have shared similar complaints with the media about your company. First, explain you need time to gather the facts of the case and you’ll get back to them with more information. Then investigate. Do the problems reflect a need for change? Why couldn’t the company resolve the problems directly before customers turned to the media? If the problems are isolated, tell the media the instances do not reflect the whole. If the problems are a trend, explain the company is working to improve and considering changes.

The Times wrote the same person who provided the above quote went on to explain the 117 complaints processed and closed with the BBB during the last three years were among 1.1 million rooms booked. I inferred from others The Times interviewed that the number of complaints is small overall. In addition, other responses discussed how the booking process in general could lead to confusion and hotels room rates are often changing.

But critics in the news story used stronger language such as “deception” and “deceitful” and discussed fine print and tiny font size.

We don’t know who is right. The industry’s arguments may hold some merit. But don’t let customers infer you believe they screwed up. That’s not good public relations. Don’t let the media infer you believe a small percentage of disgruntled customers is a natural part of doing business, especially when those customers’ stories end up in The New York Times. That’s not good media relations. We believe even one angry customer calling a reporter is one too many. Yes, the customer may not always be right. But not finding a solution before the media get involved can cost much more than a refund. And in this case, the media are not small-town publications you might argue are desperate for tiny controversies. This issue got so out of hand, even The New York Times considered the story worth covering.

Media Training: You’re Probably No Matthew Perry

Thursday, December 19th, 2013
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I’m torn about the actor Matthew Perry’s appearance on BBC Newsnight, where he engages in what I imagine is a very personal debate about drug addition and drug courts. Perry argues the concept of addiction is real while his nemesis, journalist and anti-drug campaigner Peter Hitchens, insists people actually have more willpower to make proper choices.

Perry’s approach makes what might be a dry but serious conversation quite entertaining and he accomplishes this without yelling or waving hands erratically. His rumor and sarcasm are reminiscent of Chandler, the character he made famous. While arguing addiction is real, Perry calls his opponent’s argument “ludicrous” and sarcastically calls him a genius. Perry also calls him “Santa” and compares the journalist’s point of view to believing in Peter Pan. Perry views this opponent as Chandler might view Joey’s insights on Friends. Hitchens mocks Perry for being “clever” and complains the actor cannot argue seriously.

It is certainly not farfetched that business leaders might find themselves on a news show, local or national, debating issues related to their industry. So it is worth watching how the characters on this BBC program interact. The conversation is testy at times, but Matthew Perry’s humor and personality make him likeable and personable while the journalist seems somewhat dry and stodgy. Why does that matter? Because half the time, the audience hasn’t asked a staff to research a topic and their opinions are often shaped by whichever objective or subjective news outlet informs them of such things. The guy we like wins the debate, for good or bad.

I’m torn because Perry is an actor and I’m skeptical most business leaders could cleverly insult either an opponent or tough reporter without looking like the jerk. Perry can get away with calling the journalist “Santa” because it’s just funny coming from Chandler. But the same zinger from a stiff CEO in a suit without the cool actor facial hair might lead to a bunch of puzzled faces.

Reality shows often show us disclaimers about not trying something at home without consulting a professional. Matthew Perry is a professional. If you show up on the local channel or cable news, be careful before ridiculing the other guest as Santa or a Peter Pan believer. An approach that might make Chandler likeable might make you engage in some crisis communications once the interview is done.

Video Production: Hot And Saucy! Kissing On Camera?

Monday, December 16th, 2013


By Victoria Rosenblum, The Flip Side Communications

Some couples go to dinner to share their dreams for success and spend the evening talking about their busy workdays. For Jason Steffen and Kat Bingham, it is easy to stay on the same page. Not only do they live together, but they also share the same dream of being actors and shared the same day job at Queen’s Pizzeria in Mesa, AZ.

While shooting a video, Keith and I met the couple that was obviously head over heels for one another. The two couldn’t keep their hands off of each other and even asked if they could kiss on camera. This is still the strangest request I have ever heard of at a shoot—let’s just say they certainly were not camera shy. After we decided the kiss on camera wasn’t going to be a cohesive fit for our b-roll, Keith decided to let his journalistic side kick in and question the two lovebirds.

“Are you married,” asked Keith? “What do you do when you’re not working here?”

Turns out we met a young “Brangelina.” Let’s call Jason and Kat “Jaskat.” Jaskat explained that they live together and feel as committed to one another as a married couple. The hitch is that they agreed they would not get a marriage license until all people have the right to wed. Kat confided in Keith and me once Jason turned around. She flashed a smile and whispered that she’d take a ring from Jason any time.

The two can’t get enough of each other. Not only does Jaskat live and work together, but they also act in community theatre together. They moved to Los Angeles and plan to make it big.

I’m thinking we’ll be seeing big things from Jaskat and the two won’t let Hollywood get in the way of their romance. They seemed to make a great team in the pizzeria, as they will during the next step of their journey in LA.

At work Jason rolled out and tossed the dough and handed it off to Kat for the sauce and toppings. Jason is the cheese to Kat’s peperoni. Now that’s love.

WATCH: Is This America’s Tallest Journalist?

Sunday, August 18th, 2013

The Flip Side interviews TV journalist Greg Deffenbaugh about his height and how it may have impacted his interview with President Obama.

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Media Relations: Driving Straight For The Jugular

Sunday, August 4th, 2013


She called to inquire about my thoughts on helping a struggling business by enlisting the pressure of the media. The business was engaged in a dispute and sticking a sympathetic member of the media on the opposition might be one of a few remaining opportunities to ultimately achieve some sliver of success.

The case offers us a good example, albeit a slightly unusual one, of why in media relations, identifying one’s target audience is significantly preferable to emailing a slew of wide-ranging journalists.

Most businesses, you might safely assume, want media coverage that, directly or indirectly, grows their number of customers. But in this situation, increasing the company’s customer base would not resolve a dispute. What this business needs is a journalist or media outlet which will drive straight for the jugular, persuading and shaming the opponent to return to the negotiating table with a different mindset. In this case, the target audience is one entity: the opposing business.

Pitching stories with little regard to who is receiving the ideas is not the casting-a-wide net path you should take. Ask lots of questions, define the target audience as narrowly as possible and pitch selectively.

The Flip Side Searches For An Intern

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

The Flip Side Communications LLC is a Scottsdale media company offering professional video, media/public relations, media training and employee communications. Keith and Loren Yaskin own The Flip Side. Keith was a TV reporter for 17 years, primarily as an investigative journalist. He won three Emmys and three first place Associated Press Awards. The AP once named him Arizona’s TV Reporter of the Year. He graduated from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, where he received the Gary Cummings Memorial Award as the top broadcast student. Loren specialized in marketing and public relations at Edelman Public Relations and Delta Dental of Arizona. She was an internal communications consultant at The Vanguard Group and an employee communications manager at PetSmart. Loren also graduated from Northwestern.

We are searching for an intern who is creative, willing to question conventional wisdom, able to come to the table with plenty of ideas, comfortable with tight deadlines and eager to learn. Strong social media skills and a willingness to come up with new concepts on how to use social media on behalf of businesses are important. We are searching for someone who wants an opportunity to go beyond the conventional internship and instead play a strong hands-on role. Responsibilities include:

  • Pitching stories to the media
  • Developing story ideas
  • Helping write blogs
  • Helping write news releases
  • Posting to social media sites
  • Monitoring social media sites and tracking industry-specific information on the Internet.
  • Identifying public relations opportunities
  • Identifying media outlets to pitch stories to
  • Tracking news events related to clients’ industries

Please send information to Thank you.

Some Media Are Like Men Staring At Women

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

I know instantly when I’m talking to a man and his eyes begin to drift to the side like a vehicle starts to drift when its driver is on a cell phone. Often, the man is processing the attractiveness of a woman passing by. This phenomenon takes place even if I’ve engaged this person in a conversation about business, sports or world peace. It doesn’t take much to get distracted.

News stories are eye candy for journalists. For example, someone at a media outlet sent me a message about my pitch:  “They like your idea, should I give them your number?” But no one called.

Another reporter wrote me, “Hi Keith! We’d like to talk to your expert about —–. Could you please provide a name & number?  Thanks!”

When the reporter didn’t call that day, the client said, “FYI, no word yet from —-.”

A reporter actually called the next day, but the point is clients often don’t get the media’s mentality. For example, it was not uncommon for a TV station to give me a story and then re-assign me two more times within an hour. This is especially exasperating when I started calling people for interviews, hung up the phone and learned someone changed my story.

So consider some media like that man who finally gave you time for an important discussion. Just when you think you’ve sealed the deal, something else walks in and distracts him. The media like sexy stories and your hot idea is just one nice pair of legs away from being yesterday’s news.

Media Relations: The Day I Took A Back Seat On Live TV

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

I recently found this picture of me sitting on a motorcycle. If I remember correctly, the camera captured this image outside a Harley-Davidson dealership.

Some TV managers routinely told my colleagues and me that women made up a significant portion of our viewers beginning at 5pm. So I figured I was in the driver’s seat after reading and sharing a story about a growing number of women riding motorcycles.

The dealership introduced me to women riders and the story took off. Of course, I couldn’t carry out such a story without taking a seat myself. During my live shot, I sat on the back. But anyone who knows much about motorcycles, which I don’t, realizes people have nicknames for riding on the back seat that are not very masculine. Confident in my credibility as a journalist, I held no animosity toward those snickering at my position. When the ride ended, the story steered a positive light on women and motorcycles.

Media Training: How Many Reporters Are Dumb As Rocks?

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

During media training, a participant said to me no offense, but she encounters reporters especially in TV who are dumb as rocks. Reporters show up to interviews with no concept of the topic. They even ask her what questions to ask.

Other participants agreed this lack of intelligence seems more prevalent in TV news. How would I respond?

First, I imagine every industry employs people we cannot believe have their positions. I don’t have studies concluding TV news has a higher share of dumb dumbs. But let’s use some logic. Many TV news directors don’t hire the best reporters they can find. They hire the best reporters they can find who are good looking. Some people might be excellent journalists, engaging to watch and know how to turn even the most mundane topics into visual masterpieces. But if those same reporters look like Elmer Fudd and sound like Mickey Mouse, their chances of holding a microphone or anchoring the news plummet. On The Flip Side, some news directors don’t mind teaching beauty queens how to report the news.

There’s another factor to consider. It was not uncommon for me to arrive for a 1:30pm editorial meeting and be told to go live at 5pm about, for example, a complex insurance story I knew nothing about. The assignment desk hustled me out the door to an interview it previously scheduled. With the few minutes allotted, I turned to Google, jumped on my smartphone and gathered every kernel of information I could on the way to the interview. You can see how someone less ambitious might show up with very little knowledge, although asking people what questions to ask them is an experience I can’t relate to. But TV general assignment reporters cover everything and often have little time to study.

The silver lining is this:  A reporter who doesn’t have a clue might be less willing to hit you with hard questions. They just want to finish the interview without making themselves look any more like a jackass. So if an unprepared reporter shows up and sounds like a dummy, be smart and guide the interview to go just like you want. Yes, take advantage of the situation. The media often push people into a tough corner. You can return the favor when possible to push your agenda to an unprepared journalist.

Media Relations: Would Going Topless Really Work On TV?

Monday, January 14th, 2013


In the movie “Wanderlust,” a TV reporter is covering a groundbreaking. Alan Alda’s character, speaking through a bullhorn, asks her to stay to report the real story of a land dispute. She declines, citing time constraints.

Jennifer Aniston’s character asks the reporter, “You want a news story?” and then takes off her top. The reporter returns to cover the story. Other men and women also start taking off their shirts. Aniston’s character and her friends later watch the news, smiling in pride at the coverage they generated.

Would going topless really grab an otherwise uninterested media? Absolutely. TV newsrooms like few things better than to blur out something. I even recall an example of a newsroom obscuring out something that, in my opinion, did not need blurring, making the content more interesting and mysterious.

But going topless brings risks and questions:

  • How would taking off shirts affect your brand? Would going topless to obtain news coverage be worth breaking with a brand which otherwise promotes people wearing clothing?
  • Would your spokespeople be able to speak smoothly to the media and keep on key messages without wearing a top?
  • Would your representatives speak passionately or allow the adrenaline rush to drastically change their tones?
  • How would a business ensure the stunt did not backfire? It’s one thing for glamous Hollywood actors to pretend to protest in the nude. Would you be ready to see real life co-workers take on this task?
  • Would the company itelf take its own photos to post on social media?
  • How about citizen journalists covering the event who decide to post video without blurring it?
  • And how would a business handle employee communications, ensuring everyone understands the strategy and can come forward with concerns?

The movies can inspire us and reflect reality more than we wish to acknowledge. But before trying topless, consider how the concept fits into the overall communications plan. Most likely, the end will bring more than simply rolling credits.