A Strange PR Week: Lance Armstrong, Oprah Winfrey and Manti Te’o

imageIt was Lance Armstrong’s interview.  Long anticipated, long awaited, although by the time the cameras rolled most people knew what the basic content would be.  The results felt scripted, as though he were reading from a teleprompter.  He did little to win sympathy for his cause or explain his story.  The clear PR winner was Oprah.  It was her show.  Her stage.  She landed the interview and media around the world were pulling quotes or running clips from her exclusive interview.   The interview began along these lines.

Did you take banned substances?  Yes

Did you take EPO? Yes

Did you take blood transfusions? Yes

Did you use banned substances when winning all seven Tour de France titles?  Yes

The interview pretty well went downhill from that point on.

One of the problems was it had been widely reported for days that he was going to fess up.  It began with a number of well orchestrated leaks.  The New York Times reported that Armstrong was considering singing a different tune. Then came USA Today reporting that he planned to confess to Oprah. Then came the AP) stated that he had in fact told Oprah he’d used. By the time the actual interview surfaced, no one was surprised by his admission, what people were looking for were how forthright he’d be, how contrite and to find the truth of when, where and how.  His delivery was restrained and stilted.  The fact that most other news shows featured guests who had been targeted by Armstrong only weakened his story.

The Lance Armstrong story is a remarkably sad one. He doped and he lied.  Neither of those are good things, but it’s his actions after the facts that are in a sense the most shocking.  Fame, money and power seem to have unleashed a monster.  He was vicious in his assault on those who accused him of using performance enhancing substances.  Because he had the money and clot to bury those who were telling the truth he did so with a vengeance.  Using the legal system and the media he savagely attacked those who dared to cross him by committing the crime of telling the truth.

Can Armstrong rehabilitate his tattered media image?  Is there a PR or media relations formula that can resuscitate his once stellar story?  Or will he fall into the OJ Simpson category of public relations lost causes?  Generally America is a nation of second chances, of rising from the ashes, but the Armstrong case is a uniquely tough one.  He betrayed and alienated so many, that I’m not sure you’d get good odds on a favorable outcome.  Still, stranger things have happened.

Whereas I don’t feel Armstrong accomplished what he hoped for by granting the interview, it was Oprah who came out the winner.  She landed the interview, asked the tough questions and her show was featured in nearly every conceivable media outlet.

Perhaps the strangest thing about this week was the fact that the Lance Armstrong story made sense compared to the strange saga of the Manti Te’o girlfriend hoax.  Good luck coming up with a positive media or PR spin for that story.

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2012

Phillips, Brad. “Review: The Last Lance Armstrong/ Oprah Winfrey Interview.” Photo. Media Training.  17 Jan 2013. 18 Jan 2013. <http://bit.ly/1b6sZ9e&gt;

The Multidimensional PR Approach

Whereas traditional media is still as important as ever, you can now utilize it in a variety of ways.  For example, as opposed to focusing solely on traditional media, you can target some specific media outlets and use those validating mainstream media hits to enhance your online media campaign.

Clients that we’ve place on Dr. Phil, Oprah (well those days are gone), the Today Show, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and other media were able to magnify those media placements by posting or commenting on them in blogs, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, forums, etc.  Utilizing this approach you can achieve one of the primary functions of traditional media – gaining the validation and credibility of being featured in the news.  Once a few traditional placements have been secured, you can then magnify them using social media.  That approach has helped us create an online buzz about our clients.  It separates our clients from the competition, enhances their brand and creates greater awareness about them and their company.

PR is now multi dimensional. There are myriad ways you can develop successful campaigns.  The optimum approach is one that incorporates traditional and online public relations, yet at times, developing a hybrid campaign, or one that focuses solely on traditional or online media, can also serve its purpose.  It all depends on your needs, your business model, your market and your budget.

It is now possible for campaigns to be more targeted and strategic.  For example, a physician we worked with who was featured on Oprah separated herself from the others in her field by using social media and blogging to spread the word about her segment on the show.  A beauty expert who was featured in Allure was able to present herself as a much more credible authority and expert in her field by blogging about and posting the link to the Allure article on various social media sites.

After one or two validating placements you can either continue to focus on traditional PR, or , if you’re on a tight budget, you can shift your campaign towards an online approaching using the magazine, newspaper or TV coverage on you and your company to generate interest online.  Using online PR and social media you can establish yourself as an expert via your traditional media coverage and further establish the credibility of your brand.

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2011

Talk Shows Rule Daytime TV – Now Learn how To Book Yourself

Recently ABC announced that it was canceling its long-running soap operas All My Children and One Life to Live and replacing them with two new one-hour daytime talk shows, The Revolution and The Chew.

All My Children premiered on the ABC Television Network on January 5, 1970, as a half-hour show; seven years later it expanded to an hour. “One Life to Live” debuted on July 15, 1968 and marked its 10,000th episode on August 17, 2007.   But times have changed and now reality-oriented talk shows rule the daytime.

The Revolution will be a weight-loss show co-hosted by “Project Runway” emcee Tim Gunn. The Chew have a food slant and will offer a “rotating cast” of hosts that includes chef Mario Batali, Top Chef’s Carla Hall, chef Michael Symon, nutrition expert Daphne Oz, and entertaining expert Clinton Kelly.

These two shows are just some of the more current offerings to an already crowded daytime lineup which will also include such newcomers as Anderson Cooper, Katie Couric, Rosie O’Donnell and Fran Dresher.  Add them to such returning old guards such as Dr. Phil, Ellen The Dr. Oz Show, The Gayle King Show, The Talk, The View, Rachel Ray and Martha Stewart and you have a pretty full day of talk.  Chances are not all of these shows will survive and they will all be fighting one another for the elusive ratings.

This time around there is no Oprah in the mix.  For the first time in decades, a new show truly has a chance to jump out of the pack and claim the daytime crown.  So, if you’re an expert in your field, or someone who has written a book or have a service or product that fits one of the shows’ target markets; get ready to start pitching.  The shows don’t start until September, except for a few such as the Revolution, which is scheduled to launch in January.  But by late July producers are setting up their booking schedules.

Don’t make the mistake of blindly pitching every talk show the same way.  Study each show and see what type of segments they run; then tailor your pitch or press release to meet those criteria.  Remember  follow-up calls are important. They’re the only way to know that your press release has actually been read. And, just as important, by following up, you can find out if the press release did its job and generated interest. If the release didn’t do the trick, you can now add the human touch. If the response is no, you can offer other angles, but do it lightly and then exit gracefully. Don’t waste your time trying to convince the media why you are right or trying to make a hard sale. Your objective is to meet their needs and not by pitching a product or a service, but by giving them a good, compelling story.  Work on your PR pitch before you call. Do some pitch practicing, even if it’s just with a friend. Record a call and listen to how you sound. Don’t sound intimidated and certainly don’t try to intimidate. Be upbeat and polite.   Remember study each show and pitch towards their needs.  It might take some time, but if you stick to it, brainstorm and come up with some creative pitches – we’ll see you on the talk shows.

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2011

Appearing on a Talk Show Post-Oprah

Times are changing; Oprah is gone as are many of the daytime soap operas.  TV’s 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. daytime slots are shifting dramatically.  It is a primarily female audience that watches at that time.  The numbers show that most are seeking personality based or issue oriented programs.  Talk shows, game shows and reality shows fill the niche since none require the type of consistent viewing that a traditional drama or comedy does.  Busy women can tune in and out throughout the programs.  If you’re looking to pitch yourself as a guest on a talk show, never fear, although Oprah is gone, there are a myriad shows out there and more are on the way.

Daytime TV will be talk-heavy; Time Warner will launch a new talk show hosted by CNN anchor Anderson Cooper and Walt Disney’s ABC is in talks with Katie Couric. There is also Talk, the View, Dr.Phil, Dr. Oz, Nate Berkus, Ellen DeGeneres, Rachael Ray and Martha Stewart. “Chew”, featuring chef Mario Batali will launch in September, 2011.  And “The Revolution”, from the producers of “The Biggest Loser” will premiere in January, focusing on topics relating to health, weight, and lifestyle.

The courtroom will also probably be more present during the daytime. Judge Judy has been averaging 6 million daily.  This type of programming not only appeals to women, but does fairly well with other demographics.

Whether any of the current crop will breakthrough and reach Oprah status is hard to say.  It would be difficult to replicate a program and personality with the power of Oprah, but who knows?  From a PR perspective, what was for so long considered the golden ring is gone, but there are quite a few avenues out there to pursue.  Although its ratings are inconsequential next to what Oprah used to draw, the OWN network has its own shows which are worth a look.

Initially your most important job is to actually watch the shows.  Know what stories they cover and how they cover stories.  Study the shows and their presentations so you can discover the best ways to pitch your story.  Each show has its own signature and its own personality, so learn that before pitching.  If you’re presenting yourself as an expert in your field, have stories ready that illustrate exactly why you are the expert.  How have you changed your client’s lives?  What can you offer the viewing audience?  What makes you unique and different enough to convince a producer to book you as a guest?  If you can successfully answer those questions, you’re good to go; it’s time to prepare yourself your TV guest spot and start your media training.

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2011

Deconstructing the Oprah Factor

The Oprah Winfrey Show exits on May 25, 2011 as one of the longest-running daytime television talk shows in the United States.  It has run nationally since September 8, 1986, for over 24 seasons and over 5,000 episodes.   It has indeed been a one-of-a-kind phenomena.

I’ve been in PR for over two decades; before that I was a journalist and a magazine editor and I’ve never seen anything like the Oprah effect.  The impact she’s had on popular culture is ubiquitous.  There is the obvious; Oprah’s TV show redefined daytime TV.  The reach and scope of her show was unrivaled.  From the PR perspective appearing on Oprah was like winning the Triple Crown and the Super bowl (not an easy task) she was indeed the crown jewel in the media relations world.

Can you place me on Oprah? was the one constant request every new client and prospective client had.  Perhaps the most interesting part was that every client was completely convinced he or she was perfect for the show.  As I was repeatedly told “Oprah will thank you for pitching this idea”.  Although we did place clients on Oprah, strangely enough her producers did not jump at every pitch as clients repeatedly assured me they would.

Although her show initially followed the Phil Donahue formula, she eventually shifted her approach focusing on more positive can-do, new age and spiritual topics.  Her show was a mix of celebrity interviews, self improvement segments, book club and favorite things segments.  Although generally a media darling, Oprah was criticized for frequently airing shows that were viewed by many as hour-long daytime infomercials. Her promotion of books belonging to her book club was also criticized.

Oprah became perhaps the brightest pop culture star in the U.S., but (and perhaps even more importantly) she became a verifiable star marker.  From Gail King and Dr. Phil, to Dr. Oz and, Nate Berkus, Oprah launched careers.  Yet her impact was far wider than those personalities that she personally helped launch; authors, fitness gurus and New Age sages owe their success to appearances on her show.  Oprah became the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval on steroids.  If she touched it or recommended it, it sold; she created stars, trends and other media celebrities.

Where she goes from here will be interesting to watch.  It will be difficult for her to keep the type of power she has for two decades without her daytime show.  A network is an ambitious undertaking, but difficult to launch.  Her viewership drops precipitously as she moves from the high visibility of a major network to the myriad channels of cable.  Still, in the past she’s succeeded where others have failed.  She helped shape pop culture unlike any other individual we’ve ever seen.  She is not a person to bet against. With her TV show, magazine, and now her OWN network, Oprah has impacted the culture in a unique way.  She is no longer the ruling monarch of daytime TV, but she could still have other surprises in store… to be continued.

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2011

The Double Dream Hands YouTube Phenomenon

The internet has changed the media topography.  Now a story can break on YouTube or on a blog or social media outlet and can become a major story in the traditional media.  I’ve watched online phenomena grow, but this has been the first time I’ve been able to experience, from the inside, just how strong a video going viral online can be.

The Double Dream Hands video featuring John Jacobson has taken off in a big way.  Recently Ellen showcased the video on her TV show.  In a pretty funny segment, Ellen is there dancing along with John. (link).  But even before the Ellen segment, the video of John showing kids how to do the Double Dream Hands dance had exploded online.  On YouTube the video now has well over one and a half million views.  This phenomenon was certainly unexpected.  John had posted other similar videos before, but this one hit a chord.

We’re not talking about a flash in the pan, or about someone who made a video simply to have it take off on YouTube; John Jacobson is the real deal.  He’s a star to preschool students, middle school students and music educators around the world. A well-respected composer, choreographer, teacher and performer. John is the Senior Contributing Writer for bimonthly John Jacobson’s Music Express Magazine; produced and published by Hal Leonard Corporation, the publication reaches more than 3.5 million students every year. He is the author of “A Place in the Choir,” and other books.  His original recordings are favorites of children; parents and thousands of educators across the country perform his musicals and revues as a part of their curriculum.

John has staged hundreds of huge music festival ensembles in his association with Walt Disney Productions and directed productions featuring thousands of young singers including NBC’s national broadcast of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, presidential inaugurations and more.  He is also recognized internationally as a creative and motivating speaker for teachers and students involved in choral music education.

In a sense it could be said that John was Glee before there was Glee.  He is an educator, author, songwriter and choreographer.  His mission is to transform kid’s lives through dance and music.  John is also the founder and volunteer president of America Sings! Inc., a non-profit organization that encourages young performers to use their time and talents for community service.  As I stated earlier, this guy is the real deal.

Yet with all of that work behind him it is the Double Dream Hands video that is bringing him into the national spotlight.  As John said, who knew?  His next question was whether after all of his work, would Double Dream Hands be what he was going to be known for?  The answer is no; John will be known for his body of work.  But this unique online viral phenomenon offers him a tremendous opportunity to reach the media, the public.  It is also brining new opportunities his way. This is a case where a video goes viral and creates a media story.  Since the video took off, talk shows, late night shows, print publications and other media outlets have been interested in covering him and his video.  It was organic and it was real.  John’s not faking it; he’s teaching kids how to do that dance on the video.  That’s what made it so interesting.

So, what PR or media lessons can you take from this story?  I’m not suggesting that you go out and intentionally try to create your own Double Dream Hands phenomena, but you can learn from this just how powerful a story or video that gains traction on the internet can be.  You do want to be aware of and pay attention to how you can position your online information and postings.  An online video, blog or social media posting can also become a traditional media story.  Although it might not be featured on Ellen or Oprah,  it could interest local or regional media.  Remember, social media now impacts traditional media.  You never know what’s going to grab their attention.

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2011

Your Gratitude To-do List

“The single greatest thing you can do to change your life today would be to start being grateful for what you have right now.  And the more grateful you are, the more you get.”  So says Oprah.  Now whether you are an Oprah fan or not, one thing you have to give her is – she knows how to succeed.  So maybe there is something to this gratitude business.  At the very least, it’s worth a try.  We’re taught to strive, struggle, plan, work, toil… you know, all that fun stuff,  Then we focus on making as much as we can, The one with the most toys wins, or so the saying goes.

It’s easy to get lost in the struggle and spend the rest of our time resentful that we’re not accumulating as much as we want, or as much as we feel we deserve.   But in between the struggle and the accumulating we often forget the best part.  We forget to enjoy, to relax, to appreciate, to be grateful.

Generally I write about how to pitch your product or service, how to actively grow your business, and how to use social media and public relations to establish your brand.  Important stuff; useful stuff.  But that’s just a part of the equation.  A gratitude how-to list is the business focus for today.  To grow your business you have to not only actively work towards your goals, you also need to learn how to let go, relax and be grateful for what you already have.  It sounds counterintuitive, but think about it.  When driving a car do you simply push harder and harder on the accelerator in order to reach you destination?  There is a certain recipe for failure, to put it mildly.  If you’re smart you speed up, slow down, stop, look around and enjoy the scenery as you travel towards your destination.  If you’re really smart, you’re grateful that you even have a car and if you don’t have a car, you’re grateful for what you do have.

We’re generally going through the motions in our day.  Our actions become route robotic, or anxious and frenzied.  We are so firmly focused on where we’re going we forget to pay any attention to where we are.  We are so focused on what we perceive as the final goal or the brass ring, or whatever we choose to call it, that we forget that the journey truly is the destination.  We never arrive at that magical “there”, because that place doesn’t exist.  We move through a series of destinations; but the sad part is we generally ignore or minimize them because they are not “the” destination.

Just as launching a marketing or PR campaign takes some work, research and brainstorming, so does learning how to practice gratitude; so, for now forget about your business plan or your marketing plan or your to-do list.  Make a different list this time.  Make a list for everything you have to be grateful for.  And don’t be stingy here; be lavish, extravagant.  If you end up with a small list, go back and add some more points.

Your next assignment is to find signposts that remind you to practice this.  There is a tree that stands on top of one of the hills in Griffith Park, not far from my office.  It stands by itself.  To me, there is something magical about it.  I see it about once or twice a day as I’m driving.  It’s my gratitude reminder.  Not only am I grateful that that tree exists, it reminds me to be grateful for everything else I have.  So that’s the last item on your gratitude to-do list.  Find your tree

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2010


Twitter Emerges as Larry King Exits

file:///Users/aubriewienholt/Desktop/Larry%20King%20blog.mov This week, Larry King announced that he will be ending his Larry King Live interview show this fall after 25 years on the air. One of the most interesting aspects of his exit is that his announcement was made on Twifile:///Users/aubriewienholt/Desktop/Larry%20King%20blog.movtter, a social media site, and not on his CNN show.   It is indicative of how social media has changed the communications landscape.  From Obama’s presidential campaign, to coverage on the BP oil spill, Twitter and other sites have become primary forms of mass communication.  Stories that not that long ago would have been broken on TV or in a daily newspaper are released in real time via the net.

Both King and Oprah, two long time media giants are exiting at around the same time, as online and social media are changing the media as we know it.  Although King’s show is no ratings giant, it has always been a must for celebrities, politicians and others in the media world.  He recently made the Guinness Book of World Records for having the longest running show with the same host in the same time slot.  King’s softball approach changed the media landscape, melding entertainment and news into a type of edutainment hybrid.  Some major news events took place on the show including Ross Perot announcing his run for president on the show and O.J. Simpson calling in the night of his acquittal.

King has never been the hard hitting acerbic type of interviewer, which offered guests a comfort level that didn’t exist on similar shows.  He and Oprah have defined talk TV in the last two decades.  As the two exit, the torch is now being past on.  At present, sites such as Twitter and Facebook serve to deliver quick bursts of communication.  It will be interesting to see if social media, blogging and other online forms of communication will morph and eventually take up the role now served by the mainstream traditional media.

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2010

Creating PR Success Beyond Oprah

I recently received a call from a prospective client who had recently appeared on Oprah and was looking for ways to continue and grow his media placements and build his public relations campaign.  That was one smart, savvy business owner.  Most people view Oprah as the summit, as the end of the line media-wise.  Granted, at least through the end of this year, Oprah will remain one of the prime jewels, when it comes to media coverage.  For the last decade it seems as though every client and prospect has lead with one question – “when can you get me on Oprah?”

She created a media juggernaut, the likes of which we’ve rarely seen.  Still, even for those clients we did book on Oprah, the show was only one step in their overall media campaign.  The purpose of PR is not to gain one media hit, but to create a sustained ongoing media presence.  It could be a TV segment, or a magazine or newspaper article; still other times it could be coverage in a blog or a social media site.

It is the combination of media coverage that creates an effective public relations campaign.  It is not about one placement, even if that placement is on Oprah or the Today Show.  Those types of media hits only truly fulfill their purpose if they end up generating more media coverage.  Often a media hit in a huge outlet such as Oprah will result in an avalanche of call and enquiries for a couple of weeks, but the response will then start to rapidly fade.  We once placed a client on a national TV segment that generated in the neighborhood of half a million calls in a couple of weeks.  The response was astounding.  But as with anything else, if the campaign had stopped there, eventually so would the calls.

So, keep in mind that one media placement does not equate to an effective public relations campaign.  PR is a cumulative process.  It is about the long haul, about creating a sustained ongoing media presence.  Now, add an Oprah appearance to that approach and you have one amazing PR success story on your hands.

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2010

Oprah Announces the End of TV’s Holy Grail  

She is a phenomenon unlike any other I’ve witnessed.  I’ve run a Los Angeles-based public relations firm for over two decades and during most of that time, whenever I’ve met with a prospective client, I’d count the seconds waiting for that inevitable line – “I would be perfect for Oprah” or “Oprah will thank you for pitching this story to her,” or better yet, “Oprah would pay to have this on her show.”  Who would have guessed that a daytime talk show would become the Holy Grail of the PR world?  Even clients, whose client story was more appropriate for the Wall Street Journal or Forbes, or CNN wanted that shot for the golden ring on Oprah.

Yes, we booked clients on the show, but that was never easy.  Nearly everyone wanted to be on her show.  Yes there were some who realized she was the wrong outlet, but those I could count on one hand.  Most waited with baited breath.  I had one client cancel a competing talk show appearance because she was afraid it would ruin her chances of appearing on Oprah.  The way most people viewed it was, Oprah made stars, Oprah changed people’s lives and that’s where they belonged.  One of the most difficult parts of my job has been trying to convince some clients that not only was there no chance of them appearing on the show, it was the wrong media outlet and the wrong target market for them.  That didn’t matter.  It was Oprah and her draw has always been like its own gravity field.

It’s hard to think of another show as influential as Oprah.  She launched other talks shows, created brands and turned writers into mega-selling top selling authors.  In many ways she changed the topography of TV as we know it.  It’s going to be interesting.  After September 9, 2011, which is when the show is scheduled to end, what will become the next media must-have?  There’s always The Real Housewives of Orange County.  Well, maybe not.



PR Campaigns Bring in Customers

A PR campaign can establish your brand, bring in customers, spark sales and establish you and your company – but not overnight.  Not to get to florid here, but launching an effective public relations campaign is not unlike gardening.  The more you care, feed and water your plants, the better the chances you’re going to have an impressive garden.  If you plant a seed and stand over it waiting for it to sprout in one day, and when it doesn’t, you  decide seeds don’t grow and your going to give up gardening forever is lunacy, but that’s how many approach their PR and media campaigns.  Just as seedlings take time to grow, a media relations campaign takes time to build.  It doesn’t sprout overnight.  I’ve never worked on a PR campaign that didn’t take time, work, and care.  We’ve placed clients in a wide range of media outlets from Time and the Wall Street Journal to Oprah and the Today show, but none of the bookings happened overnight.  When clients work with us and stick with it, PR campaigns can blossom. 


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