(Not) leavin’ on a jet plane

If you’ve been to New York recently and happened to be flying out via LaGuardia, you’ve probably experienced a delay.

Occasionally it’s short, often it can stretch in to a couple of hours or more.

And an advance call to your airline doesn’t always help diminish your terminal time.

Last summer, following a major rainstorm, a number of flights were cancelled and passengers on Air Canada were left to fend for themselves (mind you, if you have to be stranded overnight, Manhattan is the place to be).

One of the reasons for the delays is that there are more flights on smaller ‘regional’ jets than there used to be before 2001. Here’s an article that explains the situation.

So the next time you’re Leavin’ On a Jet Plane, instead of getting ‘hot under the collar’ as my Dad used to say, bring a book, a magazine, your ipod, some work, a DVD, then sit back, be patient and prepare to wait your turn.


Advertising or PR?

I needed a good cup of coffee after reading a story by Globe and Mail reporter Jennifer Wells about a new Maxwell House advertising campaign entitled ‘Brew Some Good’.

It turns out the ad agency decided to go minimalist with its TV spot, spending $19,000 on production and then trumpeting (in the ad) that the average TV commercial costs $245,000.

So with all that money saved, what do they do?

  • Stage a free celebrity concert near a busy Toronto subway station (great photo opp) with a substantial donation to a well-known charity
  • Offer 10,000 consumers who visit that station a free subway ride hoping they’ll pay it forward by doing another good deed later that day
  • Announce an online contest seeking nominations for a worthy charity to receive $10,000

It all sounds good to the last drop. But there was a vague familiarity to the elements: third-party celebrity endorser, corporate social responsibility, media relations, word of mouth, low-budget production values.

Forgive me for raining on the parade, but this sounds like a PR program. And sure enough, an award-winning Toronto PR agency was listed on the advisory and news release.

But there’s no mention of their contribution in Canada’s national newspaper.

This led me to wonder: With the demise of conventional TV spots, is big advertising trying to claim the PR space? And what will that model do to the relationships we work so hard to build? To the credibility of open, two-way communications?

I think this is an opportunity for PR professionals to demonstrate our worth and shout the gospel of Al and Laura Ries from the rooftops to the boardrooms.

I just hope we don’t stay in the background; subservient to the almighty ad.


Last week I was fortunate enough to be in Manhattan for work.

And while Ontario’s TV ads may claim, ‘there’s no place like this…’, they really should be referring to New York City.

It happened to be raining on my second day, constant but not a major storm by any account.

However, just like an old-time dance number, out pop the umbrellas. Seemingly everyone has one. And those who don’t can easily make a purchase from a street vendor, who appears out of nowhere, as if on cue.

And talk about coordination. People in Mantattan know how to navigate the crowded streets under an umbrella without hitting anyone in the face. It’s practically a feat of acrobatic prowess. Who choreographs the City?

I, unfortunately, was not so adept at the movements. And not wanting to put a damper on anyone else, I gave up after a few blocks, opting instead to expose myself to the elements.

How very Toronto-esque of me, I thought.

Today, during our afternoon of wet snow, many people (myself included) were caught without umbrellas. Did the entrepreneurial vendors appear to cash in on inclemency? Did most of us pull an umbrella from our collective sleeves?

Not a chance.

We just wandered around, sopping, cold and grumbling all the way.

To me that’s the difference between Toronto and New York: They refuse to submit. We prefer to soak it all up.

I still don’t get…

Twitter. (Does that make me a twit?)

I’ve read about it. Registered. Checked out the site. Tried to follow a few people. Got frustrated. Read a bit more. Looked for enlightenment in Robert Scoble’s recent post.

And yet it still seems a bit banal. I don’t need that much information fed to me in baby-sized increments at all times of the day.

Now, I’m not saying I need a novel’s worth of prose (or even a short story). And I’m all for brevity being the soul of wit.

But, I respectfully submit, where’s the wit in twit? (Pardon the rhyme.)

I hear many people raving about Twitter; people I know and respect. Perhaps I’m being old fashioned. Maybe it’s a case of missing the birds for the tweets.

But could someone please explain to me what’s so good about Twitter, what I’m missing and why I should give up something else so I can start paying attention to tweets?

Listen: I like one-liners as much as the next guy (maybe more), but I just don’t see the big deal about these.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it

In a recent Inside PR podcast, I was taken to task for my statement (and I’m paraphrasing) that in Canada, tobacco companies are legal entities and, while most of us would say that smoking is bad for you, tobacco companies, like other Canadian corporations, are entitled to PR. To me, this is similar to the right of legal representation.

I still believe that. In much the same way that I believe in free speech though I may not always like or agree with what’s being said (or written).

And for that reason I don’t think our industry should get into a position where we become the arbiters of what’s ‘right’ and dictate what work others should or should not do. That smacks of censorship; small-minded political correctness. We are not holier than thou ‘Big Brothers’ (and I don’t mean the TV show); we are communicators.

In any case, the decision as to whether or not you’re going to take on a company’s work is (or should be) yours. This can be tough if you’re employed by an organization that chooses a direction you don’t support. If that happens, I would urge you to think long and hard and do what YOU think is right (even if that means having to leave a job).

As for me, I consider myself an ethical PR practitioner and adhere to the CPRS code of professional standards*. I believe we should never lie for a client or break the law. But our industry is not the country’s judge and jury. Nor should it be. We don’t have an inside track on a so-called moral high ground.

In my books, there’s nothing wrong with trying to help facilitate an honest, transparent, two-way conversation between an organization and its publics. Isn’t that what the profession is all about?

When I was a kid and had a ‘talking to’ for something I did, my dad used to say, ‘put that in your pipe and smoke it’. Which meant he wanted me to consider his perspective and hopefully learn something.

But I guess in these days and times that expression would be considered politically wrong.

*Disclosure: I am the CPRS Toronto accreditation committee co-chair.