The Flack

This blog attempts to shine a brighter light on the subtle role public relations plays in politics, popular culture, media/journalism, business/finance, technology, marketing, healthcare, and sports. 

  • Substack, Media Fragmentation & PR
    How the Explosion in News Creators impact Communications Pros It was inevitable. The ability to profit from a personal news brand through the creation and distribution of original content has gotten even easier. “We the media” started 15+ years ago with CGM/blogging and, to a lesser degree, podcasting and has evolved to the point where established journalists… Continue reading Substack, Media Fragmentation & PR
  • PR Firms: Doing Well, But Doing Good?
    Can An Industry That Advocates for its Clients to Embrace ‘Social Good’ Practice What it Preaches? It’s been a long-time pet peeve of mine to observe how many reputable firms in the PR industry will accept clients whose business or advocacy goals raise ethical questions. We’ve seen big oil companies retain PR agencies to publicly tout their social good… Continue reading PR Firms: Doing Well, But Doing Good?
  • White House Communications Team Encounters Turbulence
    Did @PressSec’s Staff Seek Journalists’ Questions in Advance? I suppose it’s all relative. Compared to the horrific daily White House press briefings of the last four years — when there were any — the transparent and truthful approach of President Biden’s new Press Secretary Jen Psaki and her team is a breath of fresh air. Didn’t I read that… Continue reading White House Communications Team Encounters Turbulence
  • Embargoes and Exclusives
    Media Manipulation or Good PR Strategy? Journalists bristle at the notion of being manipulated by PR people as if they’re some cog in a company’s marketing communications program. Some of their biggest gripes include the PR person’s request to see a reporter’s questions in advance or review his/her story copy prior to publication. More often… Continue reading Embargoes and Exclusives
  • Journalism’s Reckoning
    Dogma Be Damned: Set Real Journalists Free
    For many, it would seem unusual, if not highly suspect, for a long-time public relations executive to opine on the state of journalism and to offer remedies for its preservation. After all, aren’t most PR pros charged with positioning their clients more favorably in news and feature stories? (There are strategies to achieve this.)
  • Can the Dems Find Their Soul and Take Back the Senate?
    The short answer is probably not. That is until the Democratic leadership recognizes a significant shortcoming in how their brand is perceived and the urgent need to mount a communications plan to fix it. Sure, “one America” resonated loudly with an electorate that was tired of four years of division and demonization by Trump, his… Continue reading Can the Dems Find Their Soul and Take Back the Senate?
  • Where PR is Needed Now
    I belong to several private groups for communications professionals on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Slack. In following the conversation strings, one can’t help but notice a palpable frustration by many practitioners that PR as a marketing communications discipline is DOA during the coronavirus crisis. This is mostly true, except for the brand-focused story angles that are… Continue reading Where PR is Needed Now
  • ‘I Hope All Is Well’
    This is the opening line for far too many PR story “pitch” letters emailed to journalists. To call it a cliche would be to state the obvious. In fact, it’s such a hollow greeting — often sent to reporters with whom the publicist has no prior relationship — it becomes a non-starter, if not a… Continue reading ‘I Hope All Is Well’
  • November Surprise
    More than a few media watchers have audaciously proclaimed that this week’s viral performance by the “President” spells doom for his prospects of re-election come November. I disagree. If there’s one thing we’ve learned in the age of Trump, scandals big and small simply dissipate in a matter of days, if not hours. Some never… Continue reading November Surprise
  • Disinformation and the PR Industry
    Between Trump and the GOP’s disregard for the truth, and the unwillingness of the major social platforms – Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter – to remove provably false or purposely doctored information from reaching its users, America is poised for a whole lot of hurt in 2020. Now comes the news, thanks to some nifty reporting… Continue reading Disinformation and the PR Industry
  • Superhuman or Not
    I’ve been following with more than a passing interest the big debate over whether it’s an ethical breach to receive a read receipt from a sent email without the recipients’ knowledge. The controversy stemmed from the invite-only roll-out of the Andreessen Horowitz-funded premium-priced ($30/month) email app called Superhuman, which includes read receipt as a default… Continue reading Superhuman or Not
  • Ad Tech Wars
    At the recent Collision Conference, I had the pleasure of taking the stage alongside The Trade Desk‘s co-founder/CTO Dave Pickles and AdRoll Group president Scott Gifis. We talked about the fast-changing and increasingly complex world of data-driven advertising in the age of programmatic and connected television. We opened the session by gauging whether the audience… Continue reading Ad Tech Wars
  • In the Matter of Bezos and The National Enquirer
    I was asked by a leading PR industry trade magazine to share some thoughts on Jeff Bezos’s audacious PR gambit aimed at the blackmail-happy National Enquirer and its Trump puppet owner David Pecker. I was hardly alone in acknowledging the fearless guile of the billionaire owner of Amazon and The Washington Post. It prompted my… Continue reading In the Matter of Bezos and The National Enquirer
  • The 2019 PR/Media Quiz
    Some years ago, frustrated by the lack of a mechanism to assess prospective PR agency candidates, I developed a questionnaire on media and PR trends that served as a non-scientific barometer for hiring. It was not intended as a measure of whether a candidate will ultimately succeed in the job, but rather one that speaks… Continue reading The 2019 PR/Media Quiz
  • Facebook PR Exposed
    Nick Confessore, one of The New York Times’s better-known investigative reporters, appeared on MSNBC’s “All in with Chris Hayes” within hours of The Times publishing its bombshell exposé on how Facebook dealt with the Russian crisis. The story was aptly titled “Delay, Deny and Deflect: How Facebook’s Leaders Fought Through Crisis.” Its verdict: FAIL. After six… Continue reading Facebook PR Exposed
  • Europe’s Biggest Tech Conference
    For those who follow my social streams, you’ll know I spent the better part of last week in Lisbon attending the massive Web Summit. It was my 4th visit to the Dublin-born tech conference, and it continues to inspire. First and foremost, the 70,000 attendees of the sold-out event are treated to a feast of… Continue reading Europe’s Biggest Tech Conference
  • Do Paid Media Walls Further Divide Our Nation?
    Hardly a day passes without my seeing a tweet from or about Civil, a new enterprise that will use blockchain technology and the sale of tokens to revive and sustain the badly battered journalism profession. Reimagining the news with #blockchain-based architecture https://t.co/xx50xG4ntU — Civil (@Join_Civil) August 24, 2018 Today the purveyors of high quality news are not only… Continue reading Do Paid Media Walls Further Divide Our Nation?
  • Facebook’s Short-Term PR Has Longer-Term Consequences
      In her eye-opening piece this week, The Guardian’s SF reporter Olivia Solon opens the curtain on the draconian efforts by Google, Facebook and presumably others to muzzle their employees from speaking publicly about their company’s doings. Aptly titled “‘They’ll squash you like a bug’: how Silicon Valley keeps a lid on leakers,” Ms. Solon… Continue reading Facebook’s Short-Term PR Has Longer-Term Consequences
  • Rachel Maddow, Journalist First
    A common refrain from the media cognoscenti goes something like this: Try listening, reading or watching those whose views run counter to your own. It may open your eyes to how others see the world. I hear this constantly from friends, family, and way too many social science pundits.  To them I say: bullshit. I will… Continue reading Rachel Maddow, Journalist First
  • Pitch Imperfect: PR’s Lost Art
    In previous end-of-the-year assessments of the public relations biz, I’ve tackled the following trends and developments: 2015: The need for PR pros to consider paid digital marketing schemes to advance their client’s communications objectives, i.e., “we no longer can rely solely on the benevolence of journalists to tell their stories (“New Media & The PR… Continue reading Pitch Imperfect: PR’s Lost Art

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