Blogging for dollars

Jeff Morosoff, Assistant Professor, Hofstra University

Blogs were the subject of CBS’ most recent Sunday Morning program.  The story noted how there are 50 million blogs in the “blogosphere” today and that some of them are making good money for their writers.  One example was a wedding blog called “Style-Me-Pretty” which has 12 employees and has made its founder rich.  Also earning blog money are many so-called “mommy bloggers” and entertainment bloggers  like Jared Eng whose “JustJared” is drawing 14 million readers a month.  For me, this begs the question, “How can I make lots of money with a blog about PR?”  Anyone with a really good idea is welcome to become my partner and publicity agent. You know–someone who knows how to do PR.  Your thoughts?

I’ve been getting nice feedback from my quickie movie, restaurant and entertainment reviews on Twitter and Facebook, so I thought I’d add this little feature to my blog: “Stuff I liked and you may like, too.”  Here goes:


MOVIES — Woody Allen’s “Paris at Midnight” is a fun fantasy about a frustrated writer (Owen Wilson) who mysteriously goes back in time and befriends some famous authors and artists.  One of Woody’s better films in recent years.  I also  really enjoyed “Bridesmaids.” It’s crude at times but manages to be funny and poignant.  Plus Mad Man Jon Hamm is in a funny, uncredited role.

TV — The show to watch for middle-agers is “Men of a Certain Age.”  It stars Ray Romano, the great Andre Brougher and Scott Bakula, and it’s a terrific mix of drama and comedy.  See how these guys deals with the real-life challenges typical of being male and 50.

RESTAURANTS — I highly recommend Strawberry’s Sports Bar & Grill, baseball great Darryl Strawberry’s restaurant in Douglaston. It’s got a large, diverse menu and features tastefully done decor and memorabilia.  The service was terrific and I had a lamb and feta burger (get it on whole wheat buns) to die for.  And Darryl’s older brother is the manager.

What to say; what not to say

Jeff Morosoff, Assistant Professor, Hofstra University

Two prominent New Yorkers became a public relations case study in recent days of what to say and what not say when you’re in the public eye. 

With the Mets still playing less-than-stellar baseball and the crowds at Citifield shrinking, team owner Fred Wilpon bad-mouthed several of his players in a New Yorker magazine interview and later told Sports Illustrated readers that his team was “bleeding money.”  These, PR people, are examples of what not to say when you’re trying to motivate your team and your dwindling fan base.

When a questionable photo showed up on a young Seattle woman’s Twitter account–sent to her from Congressman Weiner–he told the media it was a prank, later said he was unsure of whether the photo was indeed him in his underwear, yelled defensively at a reporter, and has not stopped talking about the tweet since.  Instead, he could have said that he has asked for an investigation of the alleged hacking of his Twitter account, or he should come clean about the origin and the intension of the photo and suffer the consequences.

Time and time again we have seen difficult situations go from bad to worse because the person in charge doesn’t know what or what not to say.  In Mr. Weiner’s case, he should know that the truth will eventually surface and it’ll be to his advantage to take the lead on telling it.  For Mr. Wilpon, I would offer the same advice my mother always gave me: If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.

Your thoughts?

To refer, or not to refer

Jeff Morosoff, Special Asst. Professor, Hofstra University

I’ve often been asked to serve as a professional reference for former colleagues looking for public relations jobs.  I’ve also been asked by former students.  Most of the time I’ve easily agreed.  Sometimes, the request creates a dilemma. 

For example, how do I recommend a former employee who, despite loyalty and hard work, had poor organizational skills and once made an error that cost thousands of dollars and took countless hours to fix?  How do I shine a professional light on a colleague who I liked socially, but knew just as a volunteer for a board on which we both served?  How do I say great things about a former student when I only graded a couple of essays and tests, and who earned a low B-plus in my class?  

The larger question is: What is my obligation to help when my own professional reputation may also be at stake?  If I give a good reference to someone who gets the job and doesn’t do it well, have I done something wrong?  The answer is, well, maybe.  So a suggested formula for handling these requests is as follows: 1) If you’re asked to be a reference, only say yes if you can truly point to good character traits and accomplishments; 2) Don’t say anything damaging about the former colleague or student, but answer questions from a possible future employer honestly, and state up front the nature of your relationship and the extent of your knowledge of his or her work; and 3) If someone asks to use your name and you’re not comfortable with it, tell the person it’s because you don’t know him or her well enough to make a professional judgment call.  And they shouldn’t take it personally.  Your thoughts?

"P" and "R" and the "owe" in the middle

Jeff Morosoff, Special Asst. Professor, Hofstra University

There is good news for public relations majors who graduate this month.  There are jobs out there.  And most projections predict continued strong growth in the PR field over the next decade.  But, to use the oft-quoted “Spiderman” mantra, “With great power comes great responsibility.” (The quote really originated from writer/philosopher Voltaire in 18th century France). 

Here’s why I say this: Experts believe that journalism majors are on a different side of the job growth curve.  More and more print publications have folded as content has shifted to the Internet.  Because there will be a predicted decrease in investigative and beat reporters, the burden of providing news content will shift to PR practitioners who, as a matter of the profession, are happy to provide it.  Those who are far wiser than I point out that fewer reporters combined with more public relations professionals means that it will increasingly fall to PR to present information in an accurate, unbiased way.  This will be challenging for us, as we tend to create content using filters which show our clients in the best positive light.  If we are indeed becoming more powerful, we owe it to content users to responsibly avoid “spin” and place our content using care and honesty.

It’s no suprise that students most often come into the public relations major at universities after starting off as majors in journalism and other fields of study.  It’s a sign of the times.  It’ll be up to the Class of 2011 and the newest PR professionals before and after them to enhance and sustain the credibility we older PR practitioners have fought for in our profession.  Your thoughts?

Survey: Obama Gets It Right

Jeff Morosoff, Special Asst. Professor, Hofstra University

The photo (below) of a smiling, sunglassed Barack Obama includes a caption. “Sorry it took so long to get you my birth certificate,” it reads. “I was too busy killing Osama bin Laden.”  The unattributed humorous photo went virile on the Internet moments after the president’s announcement, serving to frame the issues of the last couple of weeks.

If you agree that America did the right thing by hunting and killing the world’s most wanted terrorist, you probably share the results of a very informal university classroom survey that said President Obama has gotten the post-event messaging right.  And if public relations is supposed to be about informing your publics, reinforcing opinions, and/or influencing actions toward a desired result, it certainly seems Mr. Obama is implementing a masterful strategy.  The solemn late night announcement; the low-key trip to the Ground Zero firehouse, police station and future memorial; the invitation to President Bush; the congratulations visit to the special operations troops; and the 60 Minutes interview were indeed a victory lap, but the president’s activities accomplished something important: he did his victory dance without spiking the football.  It’s been a pitch-perfect display of leadership, void of cockiness and swagger.

And if you’re the president, that, fellow PR practitioners, is how to thumb your nose at the Trumps and Limbaughs of the world.  Show leadership by taking an important action, inform your audience, reinforce their opinions, and aim high for your desired result.  The week’s real-world events, and the superb communications campaign that followed, seem to have sidelined the silly birth certificate controversy and elevated public opinion of our president–and our nation–here and around the world.  A victory lap indeed.  Your thoughts?

Royal PR, Papal PR

Jeff Morosoff, Special Asst. Professor, Hofstra University

In the practice of public relations we often turn to staged events to reinforce, improve or change attitudes about our organizations.  Two longstanding institutions–the British monarchy and the Catholic Church–did just that this week. The royal wedding and the beatification of Pope John Paul II were joyous, very public events, but did they serve to boost good feelings about their sponsoring institutions?

By nearly every measure, the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton did just that.  The monarchy has stumbled in recent years through scandalous divorces, mishandled reaction to Princess Diana’s death, and the rumblings of a citizenry that sometimes wonders if the $128 million annually (by recent estimates) it takes to maintain the monarchy is worth it, especially during tough economic times.  But the Brits do love their queen and recognize the role the royals play in the nation’s identity–and its tourism business.  An estimated two billion (!) people watched the spectacular nuptials filled with pomp and tradition for which they are so famous.  The wedding, overflowing with optimism for the charming William and Kate, showed the world that the British monarchy is worth keeping around.

On the other hand, Pope John Paul II’s fast march toward sainthood has not been without controversy.  The beloved pope, who served from 1978-2005, has been beatified faster than anyone before him, and some believe it’s because the Catholic Church is anxious to spread positive PR at a time when its image has been suffering from its appalling priest-child abuse scandals.  Critics have said that this pope ignored the scandal and may have been complicit in the non-punishment of priests who committed these horrible acts.  The lovely Rome ceremony shared by millions of the world’s faithful was indeed joyous, but the question remains whether this event can serve to improve attitudes toward an institution in which many have lost faith. 

Your thoughts?

P.T. Trump

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Jeff Morosoff, Special Asst. Professor, Hofstra University

The 2011 version of P.T. Barnum, Donald Trump has become the nation’s–to use President Obama’s words–“carnival barker.”  P.T. Barnum (photo, top right), you’ll remember, was the shameless 19th century promoter of many things odd and spectacular.  Many of his claims and circus curiosities were untrue but people paid to see them, hence his oft-quoted theory: “There’s a sucker born every minute.”  Trump (photo, bottom left), always the bloviating showman, is using the coming presidential election as his new soapbox, choosing the “birther” issue to get tons of media coverage.  His insistence that Mr. Obama prove (again) his U.S. birth inevitably worked; the president released a “long form” version of his birth certificate in an attempt to end the “distraction” this long, silly discussion has created.

But many say the issue for birthers is not really Barack Obama’s birthplace.  Some believe it’s racism, pure and simple.  The birthers won’t say it out loud or on camera, but it pains them to see a left-leaning, personally popular black man in the White House.

I, for one, don’t believe that Donald Trump is a racist.  In fact, I don’t think he really believed that Obama may  not have been born here.  Trump lives to promote Trump and uses plenty of exaggerations and untruths to do so.  He claims his TV show is NBC’s top-rated program; it’s not–it’s “The Office.”  A few years ago he said he was worth $3.6 billion; his bank said he was worth $688 million.  He says he’s a Republican, yet he’s given more money to Democratic candidates than to Republicans.  Yes, like P.T. Barnum before him, Donald Trump promotes Donald Trump very well.  I predict he’s not serious about running for president…I believe he’s using this moment to get headlines.  Next to money, it’s what The Donald craves most.  Your thoughts?

PR milestones

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Jeff Morosoff, Special Asst. Professor, Hofstra University defines milestone as “a significant event or stage in the life, progress, development, or the like of a person, nation, etc.”  I’ve had two personal milestones within the past 48 hours: my youngest child got his driver’s license and my oldest daughter got married.  Some have suggested that I should feel older when these milestones occur.  Instead, I only feel a tremendous amount of happiness and pride.  It’s how we all should try to live life–by relishing the big events and celebrating smaller, wonderful moments, too. 

These personal milestones got me thinking about my milestones as a PR practitioner.  I realized that I had talked about this last week over lunch with an old boss.  He’s now a state Supreme Court judge; I handled media relations for him when he was the top elected official in a large Long Island town.  When he asked me about my new job at Hofstra, I said I’ve had two jobs in my life that I’ve absolutely loved: one was serving as his press secretary and the other is my current classroom role.  So now, as I’m nearing the end of my second semester, I believe that one of my most significant PR milestones took place on a recent September day when I began teaching at Hofstra.  I relish this as a big event in my professional life, which has already led to many many smaller, wonderful moments.

What are your PR milestones?

Back to the PR future

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Jeff Morosoff, Special Asst. Professor, Hofstra University

Hofstra’s “Week Without the Web” is over.  It’s safe to say that despite the recognition that we probably spend far too much time on the Internet, the experience has shown that we are highly dependent upon–and don’t wish to give up–a lifestyle that has become so attached to all this technology.

As an exercise, my students tried to imagine what a public relations campaign was like 30 years ago without the Internet, reliable fax machines and desktop computers.  I’ve been fortunate to experience the intense changes we’ve seen since 1981 and I’ve worked hard to keep up.

Think about the challenges PR professionals face over the next 30 years.  Advancements in our Age of Information are sure to quicken exponentially.  The 23-year old practitioner will have to keep pace just as I do, staying closely in tune with services and programs developing at ever-increasing speed.  They, nor I, have any idea what working in PR will be like in 2041.  I predict it’ll become more and more challenging to keep our PR skills honed and stay relevant in a hyper-active world of integrated communication.  And as my age advances I may struggle with some of what’s coming, but I intend to keep ridin’ the wave.  I am confident that my students–the Class of ’11 and beyond–will handle it all quite well.  But I’m pretty sure they’ll be telling their younger colleagues what a PR campaign was like 30 years back, when they were forced to work with 4G phone networks, Excel spread sheets, email, and early versions of something called “social media.”  The Class of ’41 will shake their heads and click their tongues and wonder how we did PR with such primitive tools 30 years ago.  Your thoughts?

Ned Ludd would have loved our Week Without the Web

Jeff Morosoff, Special Asst. Professor, Hofstra University

Billy Joel wrote, “The good ole days weren’t always good, and tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems (Keeping the Faith, 1983).”  I think back to the “good old days” and the more I ponder, the more I agree with Hicksville’s favorite son.  I said in my last blog that I started my public relations career in 1983 without a word processor and no Internet or fax machine.  There was a slower pace and  more face-to-face communication.  Yet, come to think of it, our work was quite a bit less connected.  No instant messages, instant mail, instant data, instant information.  Far fewer tools to get the job done as quickly, accurately and effectively as we do in 2011.

As our Week Without the Web approaches, there are many folks who still avoid much of what the web has to offer.  They don’t use Facebook and smartphones, and never bank or buy things online.  Some might call them Luddites, a term that draws its name from Ned Ludd.  Mr. Ludd was among those whose actions led a social movement against mechanized looms in 19th century Britain, fearing they would take away jobs and change their way of life.  Today’s Luddites eschew much of the computer age for many of the same reasons, and while in some cases they’re not wrong, I think their resistance is ultimately a poor choice.

So I, too, will attempt a Week Without the Web and for me, it’ll be a trip down bad memory lane.  I’m thrilled by the amazing, diverse, head-spinning tools we now have at our disposal.  And tomorrow’s not as bad as it seems.  Your thoughts?