Media spokespeople and PR people alike know that being quoted out of context happens all the time and it’s maddening. Regardless of the prep work and all the 1:1 media training on the planet, people continue to get quoted out of context. This usually happens for one of two reasons. The first and most common reason is that the journalist simply wasn’t paying attention, therefore didn’t understand the point and got the quote wrong. Contrary to conventional wisdom, most media people don’t get up in the morning, eat their young and go in search of trying to ruin someone’s reputation by quoting them out of context. The second reason is harsher in that some journalists will take a quote out of context in order to sensationalize a story. In the old days this only used to happen in rags like the National Enquirer. Unfortunately, today even well respected media outlets often quote out of context because it sells newspapers/magazines, makes for good television, and starts a firestorm of chatter in the blogosphere.
I have been continuously irked by an out-of-context quote that Democrats have been using to bash Senator McCain. For the record, I am a bleeding heart liberal. The fact that I am about to defend a Republican means hell just froze over and pigs learned to fly. Regardless, I believe in speaking the truth and holding no cherished outcome. Obama, Clinton, and Dean are all over the airwaves and in print talking about how McCain thinks it’s OK to spend “100 years in Iraq.” Come on people. Get real. While I don’t think McCain is the most qualified Presidential candidate, painting him as an ignorant, heartless lover of wars is absolutely ridiculous.
One second after making the 100 year comment, McCain said in the same breath, “…as long as Americans are not being injured, harmed, wounded or killed.” When you add that really important part of the statement back in, the comment is benign and certainly not newsworthy. Obama, Clinton, and Dean have all been on the receiving end of being quoted out of context. They should know better than to use this tactic (code for “pull this crap”). Clearly two wrongs don’t make a right unless it’s Wright.
Have you ever been impacted by an out-of-context quote?
I’m sure everyone has seen the latest rants of Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s former pastor. His actions have caused a media firestorm and the footage and quotes have been plastered across virtually every media outlet over the last twenty-four hours. I find it incredibly painful to watch.
It’s not his message that bothers me as much as his behavior. Wright is wrong for one simple reason — it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. Reverend Wright is entitled to his perspective and should be respected for it regardless of how much it may differ from others. However, his inflammatory remarks, condescending tone, accusatory rants, disrespectful vernacular, mocking rhetoric, and holier-than-thou air is where he loses my respect. Because his approach is so inappropriate, his message gets lost. People can only hear his tone and see his behavior and from there they shut down. For the record, I am not an Obama supporter. At the end-of-the-day, I should be squealing in delight at the havoc Wright is wreaking across Obama’s campaign. But I’m not.
In spite of his intelligence, Wright really is one of the most ignorant religious icons of all time. I’m pretty sure we all learned at an early age that you get more bees with honey. Based on his approach, this dude is a wasp stuck in Obama’s bonnet and his self-inflicting wounds are hurting everyone. While there is a difference between “right and wrong” there is clearly no difference between “Wright and wrong.”
How do you feel about Wright’s behavior?
Hard to believe a person whose name is “Kel Kelly” could be half Italian. It’s true. Like most ethnic families, growing up meant lots of family-centric events — think My Big Fat Greek Wedding but Italian style. Everything revolved around my Nana and Papa’s house. My grandparents were straight off the boat from Italy, barely spoke a lick of English, and didn’t have two nickels to rub together, but what they did have was family. And boy did they. They raised ten kids under a single roof of a small house. I loved family get togethers and every Italian stereotype you have ever heard was my world when at Nana’s — plastic covered couch, cheek pinching, meatball pushing, broken English, grapes growing in the backyard and short, round women with aprons hovering over a gas stove.
After my Nana’s death and then my Mom’s, we grew apart from extended family. Life took over and our worlds got busy. People moved. Slowly over time we lost touch with everyone. It was sad. Enter Facebook. Over the last few months, I have started finding relatives and recruiting them to Facebook. I started a Facebook group called “Forced Fuoco Fun” as an online, ongoing family reunion Italian style. Not only have I tracked down relatives from across the country (California, Florida, New York, Colorado, Maine, and more) I have recruited them all to Facebook. This includes my 82-year-old aunt on Cape Cod who thinks you need a passport to go over the Sagamore bridge, so she never does.
The Facebook reunion has been one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life. People are posting photos from 50 years ago, sharing recipes, telling stories, laughing, crying and everything in between. Although Facebook emerged as a social networking tool for college students, it has truly transformed the world well beyond that demographic. It is estimated that 30+% of Facebook’s 60,000,000 members are over the age of thirty. Although I don’t know how many are Italian, I know there are about thirty more now than there were four months ago.
What interesting Facebook connections have you made?
I can’t think of a simpler yet more powerful Web 2.0 application than Twitter. Twitter is a micro-blogging tool where users answer the question: “What are you doing?” Answers cannot be more than 140 characters long. Twitter is used for staying connected with friends. You can track friends’ as-they-happen updates via the web or you can receive mobile updates via text messages. Why would anyone want to do this you ask? I think you can’t fully understand it until you try it. And like most things Web 2.0, it is absolutely addicting. There is something intoxicating about staying connected with people in your world through one line updates. It’s like the perfect buzz. But what I love most about Twitter is the power it wields. CNN ran a story yesterday about the student who secured the help he needed to free himself from an Egyptian jail by Twittering the word ”arrested” from his cell phone as he was being driven to the police station. Twitter was developed by a handful of people in San Francisco’s South Park neighborhood yet managed to save the life of a college student a half a world away. And like most fun and innovative Web 2.0 apps, Twitter is free. Web 2.0…you gotta love it.
What are you doing?
Today was opening day at O’Reilly’s Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco. The place was buzzin’ with all the electric energy associated with this space. I popped in and out of quite a few workshop sessions throughout the day. The diversity in presentation content and presenter effectiveness was astonishing. It is hard to take anything as sizzling hot as Web 2.0 and make it dry and dull, but quite a few managed to hurl themselves over that bar. I think it is worth giving a shout out to Trisha Okubo (Omiru.com) for opening a can of whoop-ass and keeping her audience on the edge of their seats during her blog workshop. That sista’ stole the show. What made Trisha such a standout at a conference filled with a bunch of standouts? Quite simply, she was witty, insightful, relevant, fast-paced and self-effacing — a fantastic mixture of attributes that propelled her presentation into the stratosphere. Anyone who describes themselves as “short with no waist” has more balls than…well you know where I’m going with this point.
I look forward to the rest of the Expo. If you didn’t make it out to this one, I highly recommend you make it to the Web 2.0 Expo in New York in September.
Any attendees out there who want to share their perspective?
I kinda view Web 2.0 as a big sandbox with a bunch of kids playing in it. The kids include the entrepreneurs, users, investors, traditional media, bloggers, analysts, pr people, and a whole lot of other diversity. I’ve been noticing a lot of name calling lately and it is starting to sound more juvenile than the adolescent bickering you might hear in the playground sandbox. My industry seems to be getting a lot of sand in its eyes. I recently read something posted by a sandbox kid who shall remain nameless due to their cyber-age. This person slammed PR people saying that because our industry was “dying” that we were all scrambling to figure out how to survive in a Web 2.0 world. While it makes for an entertaining post and every bully loves a good pig-pile, you’ve gotta be kidding me. All kids in the sandbox are doing the same thing. The world has changed, Web 2.0 rules and we are all — without exception –adapting our professional roles to ensure our customers benefit most by the services we provide. Last I checked nobody was doing Web 2.0 missionary work and to imply they are is ridonkulous. Heehaw! Venture Capitalists are investing in Web 2.0 companies in hopes of a good return for their investors. Analysts are writing about Web 2.0 because it is smart for their business and their clients need the insight. Traditional media are adding in Web 2.0 components like user-generated content and citizen journalism because it makes them more savvy when it comes to reporting the news and engaging their audience in a way that had never been achieved. PR people are looking to build awareness and association for a client and look to Web 2.0 opps because it’s a very important medium for news/content consumption. I hate to be the one to pop the delusional bubble of many of these bullies, but PR is not going away. Yes, viral is an important opportunity but it will not replace the PR industry. Why? Because noise is noise is noise whether in the physical world or on the internet. Businesses still need to get above the noise and get their message out in an effective way. These companies need to focus on their core competencies, not pitching stories. To assume the blogosphere will spead their message like wildfire in a way that obviates the need for any other marketing/PR is as silly as the name-calling in the sandbox. Will some businesses succeed this way, absoluteley and some of those kids probably are poopoo heads. However, most businesses will not and PR can and will help them.
Can’t we all just get along?
It’s not a good day to be Mark Penn, CEO of PR gorilla Burston Marsteller. Penn is Hillary Clinton’s chief presidential campaign strategist. According to CNN, Penn “met with the Colombian ambassador to the United States earlier in the week in his role as Burston Marsteller’s chief to discuss the pending U.S.-Colombia trade pact, which Clinton has criticized on the campaign trail.” Penn called the meeting “an error in judgment that will not be repeated,” and apologized…and quit his post. As Homer Simpson would say, “D’oh!” Looks like Penn’s statement really pissed off the Colombian government who called the remarks “a lack of respect to Colombians.”
Dude? (read previous line with the tone of the guy in the Bud Light commercial when he watches his friend get married in Vegas). Seriously. What was this guy thinking? He is a PR titan. He knew better. He watched the Obama campaign get repeatedly bitch-slapped when it was reported that one of his advisers had suggested to a Canadian official that Obama was not really in support of changes to NAFTA (wink, wink). Did Penn get Eliot Spitzer’s advice on this one? What happens to people when they become successful and powerful in their own eyes? What freaky deaky PR person on the planet would go meet with a foreign government in a situation that had explosive potential? And Dude. Of all people, you ticked off the Colombians. Geeezzz! Could you have picked the Dutch or some other less volatile country?
Yeah, as the CEO of a PR agency, ‘uh I would like to assure my clients I will never meet with any ambassadors or governments without their prior knowledge. This might be a good time to admit I smoked pot and did other drugs in college. Dude…
Did you ever notice how few people comment on blogs? It is estimated that 90%+/- of users are considered “lurkers” and don’t participate in the conversation and only a mere 1% are considered “active participants.” Even some of the most well-read blogs receive a relatively small % of comments. I receive a ton of comments about my blog through emails, phone calls, and face-to-face communication, but very few people post a comment directly on the blog. I am the slightest bit disturbed to learn that many of my audience are considered “lurkers” by orgs like Nielsen, but that’s a conversation for another post. Seriously…why do you suppose this is? Humans love to interact. Do you think the 1% of active users are the people that you can’t get to shut up in the physical world? Or are they the somewhat reserved people who find the blogosphere a safe medium to express opinions? Is there a “blog hump” that we all need to get over? In other words, once you comment once and see you survived the experience, you are more likely to post again. Is it fear based? Since most posts are allowed to be anonymous, I am not sure this is the driving force. Is there such thing as “blog virginity” where users are saving their first time for a special, more meaningful interaction?
What do you think?