WHERE'S THE P.R. SWAT TEAM?
by Mark Scheinbaum
American Reporter Correspondent
BOCA RATON, Fla., March 14, 2002 -- Where are the professional societies of public relations people when the nation really needs them? Why don't we have a S.W.A.T. team or PR strike force to save the nation from laughing itself to death in a time of war? Who will save American management from itself?
I couldn't resist folks, so, performing media triage for only the worst cases of foot-in-mouth disease, here is my short list of PR emergency response targets: The GE-NBC Hypocrisy Club: It's not bad enough that CNBC keeps promoting James Cramer, the ultimate stock tout and self-promoter, and admitted former cocaine-fiend-cum-economist Larry Kudlow, but they keep drooling all over former GE chief Jack Welch.
The ultimate love fest came when non-NBC media outlets wondered if some Enron-style bookkeeping had rubbed off on Tyco and GE itself. So, Welch (hardly unbiased) is called in to throw softball questions at the evasive vagabond Bermudan-Vermonter-Floridian chief of Tyco.
Well, it's okay since Welch is the beloved Mr. Clean of business. That's until wife No. 2 spills the beans on her aging lothario husband's koochie-coo time with future ex-wife No. 3, a woman who interviewed him for the Harvard Business Review but told her editors when the news was about to come out.
Welch then sicced his lawyers on the Review as they prepared to can her, and she not only got her job back but was promoted. Senior staff members resigned in protest to no avail, per the current issue of the trusted American Journalism Review.
It all makes a great case for watching Lou Dobbs at CNN.
They May Be Mass Murderers, But Allah Be Praised - At Least They Ain't Illegal: No one at the Immigration & Naturalization Service seems to have had the reading ability or brains to pull the files on two terror pilots who murdered more than 3,000 people on Sept. 11th.
It's not like the student visa papers filled out early last summer were lost in the mail. Some INS bureaucrat had to read them, sign them, stamp them (they don't yet have the files computerized) and mail them to a flight school on March 5th, for arrival in time for the sixth month anniversary of the massacre.
Ted Koppel Meets Tom Thumb: Let's see, how can ABC/Disney make Nightline host Ted Koppel's ego shrink a bit more, like maybe to the size of Thumbellina's toy doll?
Let me count the ways. Not only did it take a well-publicized but mostly honorably rebuff by comedian David Letterman to save the premier network news show and its host, but Disney (the same outfit that killed talk radio and news on ABC radio stations) now tries to make believe it really still loves Koppel.
If it was all about demographics, Disney has a tough time explaining the revelation that there is only a four-year difference between the median age of Letterman's and Koppel's audiences.
The big PR dummy is CBS. The day Letterman performed his David "The Admiral" Robinson routine and turned down more money at a new team in favor of his old home, CBS should have jumped into action. They should have hired Koppel -- then offer him the first-ever live, nightly Nightline show from 10-11pm Eastern Time.
I Just Waved To Say I Love You: The Washington Post reports President George W. Bush, in the front rowat Ford's Theatre, was thrilled when one of his favorite recording artists, Stevie Wonder took the stage. However, the President seemed miffed when he kept waving "Hi" to Stevie, but Stevie, for some strange reason, didn't wave back.
Ari Fleischer has his work cut out... .
Jumpin' Deco Drive: Miami Beach's SoBe (South Beach) features now-internationally famous "Deco Drive" along the ocean. The bodies are by Nautilus and Ab-Master, the clothes by Speed-O and Versace, and the menu prices by Tiffany.
Of course, two or three or four blocks west, the winos and substance abusers still roam. Bistros are tucked between heaps of trash; construction site equipment and double-parkers ignore the rules, and college kids are charged $150 per night for rat's nests labeled "quaint Art Deco."
For magazine photographers the town is probably a huge improvement from 30 years ago when New York retirees warmed cans of Alpo to survive in the same Art Deco tenements. Now, at least, the strollers are bedecked with enough gold to pay Mr. T's mortgage. Beauty is only a block deep.
Kmart R.I.P: No list of public relations nightmares would be complete this year without the alligator tears shed by consumers and newspaper ad insert managers who mourn the closing of 284 (or is it 300, or 500) stores by bankrupt Kmart.
How will they spin this story? Let's see.... Be nice, Mark -- Kmart execs haven't sent your editors a nasty email in, oh, at least two weeks. Okay, we'll miss the Little Caesar's in-store restaurants which try to pass off strips of pizza crust sold in little paper boxes with small containers of tomato sauce as food.
We'll miss employees who don't know where many items are located and could not care less?
We'll miss 23 empty registers while 3 cashiers try to check out customers, no matter what the crowd.
We'll miss lighting and floor coverings which make Stalag 17 look like the Ritz-Carlton.
But most of all we'll miss the fun of guessing prices for the thousands of items in each store which never seemed to be priced at all. I guess that's the job of those three clerks: Make up the prices as you check out.
Mark Scheinbaum is chief investment strategist for Kaplan & Company, BSE, NASD, SIPC.