Join us for our next GFW PRSA luncheon on Wednesday, April 10, at Colonial Country Club!

Over the past two decades, companies like Microsoft, State Farm, and Johnson & Johnson have used an understanding of customer jobs to create breakthrough innovations. A focus on the customer job has helped them to see beyond how things are done today to understand the value that customers seek.

In this talk, Lance Bettencourt, professor of marketing at TCU and one of the leading experts on jobs-to-be-done thinking, will demonstrate the power of a jobs-to-be-done lens for shaping thinking about how public relations can and should offer value. Drawing from real examples, he will challenge the audience to see the value of PR not in what it does, but in the impact it should have.

When: Wednesday, April 10, 2019, 11:30 A.M.  – 1:00 P.M.

Where: Colonial Country Club

Register here.

The Pajama Game: March PR History

Written by: Jeff Rodriguez, Historian

Newlyweds do all sorts of memorable things for their honeymoon. But few can top the one that occurred in March 1969, when John Lennon and Yoko Ono held their “Bed-in for Peace.”

The couple had secretly married on March 20. Knowing that the marriage announcement would attract widespread media attention, the couple decided to, in today’s parlance, re-purpose their content. So they checked in to the Presidential Suite of the Amsterdam Hilton Hotel and invited the press to visit them in their room.

The previous year, Lennon and Ono had been photographed in the nude. Now the media was being invited to film the newlyweds’ honeymoon, and they were eager to give them full coverage, so to speak. As Lennon later recalled, “they fought their way in.”

But instead of finding the couple in sexual congress, they found them in opposition to Congress. The newlyweds were wearing their PJs and snuggled in bed, calling for an end to the Vietnam War and violence around the world. With reporters crowding around them, Yoko explained, “We’re thinking that, instead of going out and fight and make war or something like that, we should just stay in bed: Everybody should just stay in bed and enjoy the spring.” Politics really does make for strange bedfellows.

From March 25-31, Lennon and Ono received the media and visitors daily, answering questions, occasionally calling out “All you need is love,” and continually adjusting their respective Sleep Number settings.

The protest did receive extensive coverage, but the media reaction was lukewarm. One paper declared, “Beatle Lennon and his charmer Yoko have now established themselves as the outstanding nutcases of the world.” And one reporter, apparently missing the irony of the moment, asked Lennon, “Is there not a more positive way of demonstrating in favor of peace than sitting in bed?” To which Lennon replied, “Stop asking us if you think it’s going to work and do something yourself.” Ol’ John probably would have been a pretty good PR consultant – too bad he missed his calling.

Sometimes forgotten is that, a couple of months later, the couple held a second bed-in, in a Montreal hotel room. It’s where they recorded, “Give Peace a Chance,” joined by several celebrities and, I believe, the Fiji Water Girl.

Lennon, with McCartney, later wrote a song about the experience, “The Ballad of John and Yoko.” It references the media three times, and concludes, “The way things are going, they’re going to crucify me.” The Beatles split up the next year, and in 1980, Lennon was shot and killed.

Of course, the bed-in did not succeed in ending the war. But it did help the Amsterdam Hilton: The room, now known as the John and Yoko Suite, is available for around $2,000 a night. And there is little doubt that, as a PR strategy, the bed-ins were both imaginative and effective. All of which should help us remember: A little careless pillow talk can destroy a great PR campaign. And sometimes, launch one.

AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’: February PR History

Written by: Jeff Rodriguez, Historian

A government shutdown is no laughing matter. But government work can be pretty funny, and that was the case in February 1964, when the FBI launched a major investigation into … a song. “Louie Louie” was a demo record cut by in one take by the Kingsmen, a second-tier band. The production was so shoddy it rendered the lyrics unintelligible, so much so that when the song was released in May 1963, one DJ declared it the worst single of the week.

Despite – or rather, because of — its faults, Louie Louie eventually reached No. 2 on the charts. Quite possibly, the song would have faded into obscurity after that. But it was rescued by a highly effective marketing tactic that has withstood the test of time: Someone took offense.

Both youth and parents were concerned that the lyrics were obscene – or rather — that they might be obscene. In January 1964, a headline in the Indianapolis news announced, “Record held naughty, air ban asked.” The next month, a distressed parent wrote to Attorney General Robert Kennedy, worried that “This land of ours is headed for an extreme state of moral degradation.”

And so the feds set about stopping the degradation. The FCC questioned the record label, suspecting that the lyrics were made unintelligible out of “improper motivation.” And FBI agents watched the band on tour and tried playing the song at different speeds. But they were never able to make out the lyrics; curiously, they never thought to interview the lead singer or read the printed lyrics. As the BBC later understated, “this was not the FBI’s finest hour.”

Then, after 30 months and more than 100 pages of documentation, the FBI closed the investigation, concluding that the song was “unintelligible at any speed,” which would make for a great name for a band. Not incidentally, the incomprehensible effect was unintentional. But while the actual lyrics are not the least bit offensive, there IS in fact an obscenity in the song, which can be clearly heard. Hey, don’t feel bad if you missed it – the FBI did, too.

Today, there are more than 1,500 versions of Louie Louie. It’s been included in more than 30 movies, has generated a book and a documentary, and April 11 is International Louie Louie Day. (Shouldn’t that be a federal holiday?) Rolling Stone identified Louie Louie as the fourth most-influential recording of all time; it’s also one of the greatest unintentional PR coups of all time.

Which should help remind us that, while PR pros work very hard to give our clients the best possible exposure, sometimes, our most effective tactic might be to just let others do the work for us. No offense, mind you.

Join us for our next GFW PRSA luncheon on Wednesday, February 13, at Colonial Country Club!

When a crisis hits, and it will, you need a sure-fire game plan to respond effectively and immediately. In today’s world, information moves at a rapid pace so when you mess up, and you will, be ready to fess up and fix it right away!

Hear from Anita J. Foster, Executive Director, Marketing and Communications at the Arlington ISD, to hear hilarious, horrifying and humbling examples of how to handle any crisis that comes your way. There’s just no reason to learn on our own when we have major brands like KitchenAid, JC Penney, Egypt Air, American Red Cross and others to learn from. Be ready to laugh and cry as we walk through some classic mess ups, fess ups and fix its, and how to incorporate this strategy into your crisis communications plan.

When: Wednesday, February 13, 2019, 11:30 A.M.  – 1:00 P.M.

Where: Colonial Country Club

Register here.

It’s All His Fault: January PR History

Written by: Jeff Rodriguez, Historian

January 11, 1908 was a big day in public relations – as big as the Grand Canyon. In fact, it was the day the Canyon was designated as a national monument.

Strolling around today in our North Face jackets and Merrell hikers, the designation might not seem like such a big deal. But the idea of making the Grand Canyon a National Park had been considered – and despised – for years. In the 1880s, an Arizona newspaper had written an editorial expressing the popular sentiment of the locals, explaining that “whoever fathered such an idea must have been suckled by a sow and raised by an idiot.”

Enter President Teddy Roosevelt. Only Congress has the authority to create a National Park, so pig-suckling Teddy craftily found a way to designate the area as a National Monument. “Let this great wonder of nature remain as it now is,” he once said the area. “You cannot improve on it. But what you can do is keep it for … all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American should see. #bullypulpit #visitourgiftshop.”

Congress finally designated the area a National Park in 1919, and today, the park is visited each year by more than 6 million people, many of whom even get out of their car. And Roosevelt’s legacy is secure: The nonpartisan Miller Center at the University of Virginia calls Teddy “the nation’s first conservationist President,” not to mention the driving force behind the Build-A-Bear corporation.

Which just goes to show, PR pros always need to be ready to think big. And when all the naysayers are telling you to take a hike, well, go right ahead.