BP Cleaning Its Image While Cleaning Oil

I was interviewed by WBTV, Charlotte's local CBS affiliate, regarding how BP was handling the oil spill crisis from a PR perspective. You can watch the interview below. There were parts of the conversation that were edited out of the conversation between myself and reporter Derrick Rose (he's a gem), but they were very important parts to my opinion on how BP is handling the crisis.

Wanted: PR Manager for Hip Hop

This post is designed to spark conversation around the image and impact of hip hop.  Comments may be used during an upcoming workshop on the role public administrators play (can play) in hip hop culture.

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Hip hop needs a PR manager. It needs someone to tell the haters, like Oprah and Barack Obama, that for all the negative stories there are plenty of good stories. Stories like how hip hop motivated young African Americans to vote during the 2000 election. Stories like Russell Simmons Hip-Hop Summit Action Network. Stories that showcase the political and social consciousness of the culture represented in music like Public Enemy’s Fight the Power and dead prez’s Let’s Get Free.

Hip hop needs someone to stand up for the messages and content in the music that reflect the struggles of the people. Hip hop needs someone to say that the music and culture help followers escape the harsh realities of everyday life. It needs someone to tell the world that it’s a lifestyle that has a following of ambitious women and men that positively contribute to society. It needs someone to speak of its history, which is deeply rooted in West African rhythms and African American music.

Hip hop needs a PR manager. A manager that will tell its story - the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

If it can find this person then the haters would understand that the music, culture, lifestyle called hip hop speaks to the changes that need to be made in America.  They would understand how hip hop could help be a catalyst for change. They would understand that they need to embrace hip hop because it is here to stay.

Can hip hop count on you?

Is it all a lie?

As I was reading my Daily Dog PR Biz report on the overwhelming increase of beverages on the market from the two leading Cola giants I ran across this:

“This spring, for example, Coke will launch Diet Coke Plus , a no-calorie drink fortified with vitamins and minerals such as B12 and zinc. This fall, Pepsi will roll out Tava , a caffeine-free, calorie-free drink with added vitamins including B3, B6 and E. As an image booster, Coke now refers to drinks as healthier-sounding "sparkling," rather than "carbonated," in press releases, earnings reports and other communications.”

I was bothered by the bolded statement because to me it implies that we, public relations professionals, have made conscious decisions to mislead people. That’s unethical. And we are all about ethical behavior, right?

After sitting on my soapbox I started thinking about my day-to-day activities. I too am guilty of trying to make things appear good. What does this say about me, our profession, and the professionals that represent it? Are we truly being ethical and can we truly say that we are not spin doctors?

I know in my heart that our motives are true and not laced with malice, but really…sparkling instead of carbonated for a healthier sound? We preach honesty at every turn so why not be honest about all aspects of the product?

What do you think?

On the Way to the White House

Barack Obama may be running for president of the United States of America.  According to Susan Milligan of the Boston Globe "...Obama drew enthusiastic support from Democrats eager for a new face in a field crowded with campaign veterans."  And early results show that voters may be supportive of the candidate who hasn't laid out an agenda, but frequently calls for "a new kind of politics."  But there are naysayers.  Some suggest that Obama's presidential run could be career suicide.  They believe that W's successor will have a lot of baggage to deal with that will lead to a poor presidential run - no matter who the final candidate. There is a bit of historical precedent to support that assertion.  Others think that he hasn't been in Washington long enough to consider the presidency.  Then there are those that think that he will have to go through the microscope during his campaign run, because he hasn't had true scrutiny yet, that will hurt his chances of being able to run the race to the end.  Those are the political views.
Here's a PR perspective. Obama is hot right now.  He knows how to interview.  He is personable.  He is sincere.  He has charisma, without being charismatic (and there is a difference).  All of these things make for a great client and they give him the thumbs up with the public.  What they don't do is speak to his decision-making skills.
Obama and his staff should define his agenda.  Tell us what "a new kind of politics" looks like in simple, American English.  Don't bash the past, promote the future.  And promote it heavily.  Put Obama out there with his agenda. Let his personality take the lead, but be sure to have your crisis plan ready to execute because the scrutiny and mudsligging are sure to follow him along his journey to the White House.
If you were representing him what would you do?

How Would You Advise Your Client?

The Associated Press reports that the Supreme Court refused to disturb an Illinois Supreme Court ruling that sided with Philip Morris USA regarding light cigarettes. In a fraud class-action lawsuit the Court ruled that it was okay for Philip Morris to characterize cigarettes as light even though they were more toxic than regular cigarettes.  The smokers that filed the claim said the term light inferred that the cigarettes were better than regular cigarettes and Morris should be held liable for any health-related issues because they didn't tell them that the light cigarettes weren't any healthier.


This move, to some, paints Philip Morris USA as the bad company.  Why wouldn't they agree to pay the suit?  Others say that the smokers knew the risks of cigarettes, light or not.


If you were PR counsel for Morris, how would you respond to this?  Would you advise the company to let it die?  Would you tell them to issue a statement?  If so, what would it say? Would you work with them to send information to their shareholders?  Would you advise that they now need to start putting a label on their light cigarettes? Or would you do all of the above (or something not listed)?

Let me know what you think.