The Art of the Linguistic Kill Shot

I am writing a post that I hope will start a meme and crowd sourced effort to turn our president’s famous weapon on himself. It’s the “linguistic kill shot.”

Trump has perfected the art of name calling. He always seems to come up with the perfect words to neutralize opponents. They reduce people to cartoon labels, making them seem weak, ineffectual, liddle (as in Corker), or crooked (as in Hillary).

I thought of this while watching Dilbert creator Scott Adams on CNN. Host Michael Smerconish interviewed the cartoonist about his new book “Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter.”

(Update: The Smerconsih video is no longer available, so I replaced it with Jake Tapper’s interview of Scott Adams).

Adams (who is also a trained hypnotist and persuasion expert) predicted a Trump victory before others, back in August 2015. He said in the CNN interview: “[Trump] has the full arsenal of persuasion like I’ve never seen – probably the strongest ‘talent stack’.”

The host presented the following Trump tweet as one that Adams called a “persuasion gem:”

(Folks, I needed to hold my nose, grab forceps and go to Trump’s actual Twitter feed to get the embed code – I am not complaining, but just wanted you to know the dedication I have to this blog and my readers).

Here’s why (see the YouTube video for the full interview):

Adams said that to persuade you need to “move people’s attention and energy where you want it… and away from something you don’t want people to talk about. He has a technique of having just enough wrongness to grab your energy and put it where he wants it.”

Smerconish asked if Trump is vulnerable to a linguistic kill shot, and if so, what would it be? They kicked a couple of ideas around, but none seemed to work:

  • Dangerous Donald (he was elected to be dangerous and disrupt the status quo)
  • Cheetos Jesus (funny imagery but people love Cheetos and Jesus)

And we need a good one right now. Because nothing seems to stick to the Teflon Don (hey, maybe there’s one right there – but it’s been used before).

Let me suggest a few to get your creative juices floating; and I’d love to hear from readers and if you can share this on social and start a meme.

  • Duplicitous Don
  • Snake Oil Don
  • Huckster Trump
  • Lying Don
  • Don the Deceiver
  • Small hands (not catchy but gets under his skin, clearly)
Posted in Current Affairs, In the News, Politics, Public Relations | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Social Tools Summit Wrap

I enjoyed attending my third consecutive Social Tools Summit event in Boston last week, where I moderated a panel on branding and thought leadership.

It was great to take a day and get caught up on the state of the art in social media.  The field is constantly changing, and there’s never a shortage of new tech, challenges and opportunities.

The day featured panels on just about every aspect of the field.  Experts and practitioners from big and small companies, education, non-profits, etc., chimed in on case studies and best practices.  Social Tools may not be the biggest or splashiest event – but it fosters great dialog, networking and learning.

Branding and Thought Leadership

My panel covered areas ranging from video, to engaging people with live events and products, and influencer and content marketing.  You can see the curated tweets below.  Thanks to the panel for making it a great session: Jody Krasner Gladstein, Werner Kunz, Mark Traphagen, Martin Jones, and Victoria Desemone.  Two social “Trenders” presented opposing views and kept the rest of us honest: Rachael Cobb and Sonia Mahnot.


Conference co-organizer Neal Schaffer delivered a stellar keynote on the importance of alignment of social media with other objectives.  He also mentioned his forthcoming book, The Business of Influence, which I am excited about.  And it was great hearing from Damian Keyes, founder of DK Music Management, on the future of influencer marketing.


Here are the product awards:

  1. Best of Show: Talkwalker analytics (won Most Innovative last year)
  2. Most Innovative: Outgrow interactive content platform
  3. Highest ROI: Lithium social media management

Here are the people awards:

  1. Social Genius: Kate Hutchinson (congrats, Kate! Nice bump from Best Tweeter 2016)
  2. Social Hero: Rachael Cobb (making our panel proud!)
  3. Social Guru: Mark Traphagen (way to go, co-panelist!)

Social Tools

Half the fun of this event is learning about new solutions and the favored tools of attendees – I always take careful notes.  Here are some that were mentioned during the day, along with comments and descriptions (I was surprised not to see more vendors at this show as it is a great forum for hearing about what works, can be improved and feature wish lists):

Posted in Events, PR Tech, Public Relations, Social Media, Technology | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

See You at Social Tools Summit Next Week

I am very much looking forward to Social Tools Summit (#SocialTools17) in Boston next Wednesday, where I will be moderating a panel on branding and thought leadership.

It is the third time I am participating, and am thrilled that Neal Schaffer and Brian Mahony invited me back (see my cheat sheet from last year). It looks like it will be another great event. The day will be packed with informative sessions, tech demos, and a nice range of speakers and panels. You should really check it out if you work in social media, and are trying to get your arms around the state-of-the-technology.

The panel I’m on has good mix of folks from academia, consulting and client side practitioners:

If you haven’t registered, it isn’t too late. Thanks! Hope to see you in Boston.

Posted in Branding, Events, Influencer marketing, Marketing, PR, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

4 PR Lessons From Comedy via Seinfeld and Stern

I’ve always been a big fan of comedian Jerry Seinfeld, and like to tell the story of how my friends and I were heckled by him in the 80s, before the eponymous TV show made Seinfeld a superstar.

Four of us were sitting in a downtown NYC bar and spied Jerry with a posse (that could have easily passed for the gang on his show, but of course wasn’t) a couple of tables over.

They noted us staring and Jerry threw a couple of wisecracks our way – he found it amusing that my best buddy and I were on a double date with twin sisters. It made our night.

Flash forward a bunch of years to the present. I was in a Seinfeld state of mind, having just watched (and loved) his new Netflix special Jerry before Seinfeld; and was thrilled to hear him being interviewed by Howard Stern on Sirius radio. (Stern is another uniquely NY comic personality who I’ve loved to listen to over the years, since his days on NBC talk radio in the 80s).

They schmoozed and eventually got around to the challenges of being a stand-up and bringing the funny (“joke architecture” as Jerry called it).  This got me thinking about some of the ways that great comedy is not so different from PR.

Below I share snippets from the interview, and takeaways for PR:

Dress the Part (Stage the Set)

They started with pleasantries. Jerry complimented the Stern Show’s new set. Howard and Robin complimented Jerry on his sport jacket – part of the comedian’s standup uniform.

This led to a discussion of Jerry’s look. The jacket works well for him, but might not be appropriate for Dave Chappelle or Louie CK.

Takeaways: The jacket is an important part of Jerry’s brand. What aspects of your brand stand out and set your company apart? Seemingly minor things like the color choices on your website or logo design should complement the text narrative.

More generally, we instruct clients that it is not just the news, but the wrapper that can be important. In addition to the (hopefully) substance of the press release, it is the quality of the writing or event that can make all the difference.

Build (and Continue) the Story

Jerry and Howard discussed the challenges of writing comedy:

Howard: I was surprised to hear that you write down every single word on a legal pad.

Jerry: Every word is absolutely important.  I’ll take 10 minutes to get a syllable, I’ll count the syllables.

I like the architecture of a joke. When I watch a comic, here’s what I’m looking for: He brings something up that he wants to do a bit on. OK, that’s the easy part, noticing something that needs to be made fun of. He gets a couple of laughs. How deep can he go? Can he get a second wave? If he can get the second wave, then I say OK this guy’s really thinking.

Howard: It’s like riding a wave.

Jerry: Right, how far can you ride a wave?

Takeaways: This sounds a lot like pitch and headline writing. It’s important to be compelling and succinct. After the initial pitch or launch, can you continue to build the story? You need to craft a narrative, ideally one that rides the waves of industry trends and hot topics.

Be Brilliant (It’s a Tough Crowd)

Howard shared a prior conversation in which Jerry once said he’d made a great observation, but left it on the cutting room floor; he couldn’t go any further with it.

Howard said that afterwards he had surreptitiously offered Jerry ideas in an email that was never sent – because Howard thought it might be seen as arrogant, to school Jerry on how to finish a joke.

Jerry agreed, and said that, to be fair, Howard should sit in the audience and see for himself how the Stern material would go over, had it been used by Jerry.

Jerry: You would see how tough it really is. The hardest thing is to write standup. It has to be brilliant.

Takeaways: Similarly, the media can be a tough crowd, as they are generally slammed, juggling multiple ideas and priorities, and fighting deadlines.  They get lots of PR pitches, and won’t consider yours, unless it is relevant to their beat, interesting, and topical.

So go out there and be brilliant! It might sound tough and intimidating – but take the time and care to do this, and great results will follow.

A Stellar Brand (Jerry on his own PR)

For all of these great takeaweays, Jerry was strangely mystified when it came to his own PR and reputation.  Howard brought up the recent incident in which Jerry very publicly refused to hug pop singer Kesha:

Howard: What a firestorm it created!

Jerry: I was fascinated by it, couldn’t even understand it.

Howard, his sidekick Robin Quivers and Jerry discussed this at length and Jerry did explain and defend himself (he does not know Kesha, and what if the genders were reversed)? But Jerry seemed relatively unconcerned and maybe even a bit amused about the whole thing:

Howard: Have you gone back and tried to hear her music since then?

Jerry: I’ve been a little busy.

Not much to say here, except that when you have a great brand and reputation like Jerry Seinfeld’s, you can afford to pick battles and sometimes just let the water roll off your back.

If you like reading about comedy and marketing, please check out my story on Maximize Social Busines: 7 Things Content Marketers can Learn from Standup Comedians.


Posted in Branding, In the News, Interviews, Marketing, PR, Public Relations | 2 Comments

Will Ad Tech Stumbles Drive More Budget to PR?

PR has always been the red-headed step child in the marketing mix, getting less attention, glamour and budget than advertising. But recent challenges may drive more brands to shift some ad spending to PR.

Perhaps it’s already happening. A number of major ad agencies predicted slowdowns a few weeks ago.  That’s because large CPG companies like Procter and Gamble have been firing agencies and/or pulling back on spending.  The clients are concerned about “digital ad quality, effectiveness, digital ad fraud… [and want] assurances that ads won’t run alongside inappropriate content,” according to Wall Street Journal.

The publication wrote again today about lower global ad spending.  Sadly, Gould & Partners reported that PR agency growth is stalling too, so the declines in ads are likely not going directly to PR.

Troubles in Ad land

Ad blocking has emerged as a threat to publisher and agency revenue and can compromise ad campaign results. Another hurdle relates to the growing use of programmatic advertising.  The tech improves efficiency with automation – but has also resulted in unintended consequences.

According to Angie Geffen on ad tech provider Perion’s blog, “With the advent and growth of… programmatic tools to automate media buying and placement, it’s not always possible to know with 100% certainty where your ad will appear…  The topic was thrust into the limelight in March, when major companies pulled YouTube ads from the Google Display Ad network. Since then, there’s been a growing chorus of concern.  Some have even urged brands to fire adtech.”

The trend has increased demand for native advertising, which seamlessly appear in the user’s stream amidst publisher content. They are less likely to be blocked, and in general, are not served programmatically.  Indeed, the numbers in this report covered in Martech show growth in native and a decline in programmatic.

Why not consider the ultimate native format, AKA PR or earned media? Article coverage will not get blocked.  And there’s seldom concern over band safety when your brand is featured in editorial content.

Some have said that PR delivers more value than advertising.  There’s even a book about this.  In truth, they’re both important; but again, PR has traditionally been undervalued (and from the point of view of this PR guy) under capitalized.  You can achieve some of the same goals with PR, like building brand, visibility and even driving sales.  Plus, media coverage can validate and build credibility.

Perhaps these ad tech stumbles will send more marketing dollars our way.

Posted in Agency news, Branding, Current Affairs, Marketing, PR, Public Relations, Tech | Leave a comment

The Hardest (and easiest) P.R. to Write

I am sad to report that my father died suddenly on Sunday, after 86 years. He lived a great life and was very active right up until the end.

My family was huddling at the funeral home, the day after, discussing the arrangements. All eyes turned to me when the topic of an obituary came up, as I write and work with the press (sure, it’s great to have doctors, lawyers, accountants in your family, but PR is needed too).

My dad’s obit was the toughest thing to write because it was through tears – but also the easiest. He was a great man, and the words flowed freely when it came to recounting the details of his life – in the obituary, and also the eulogy.

I am not going to go all mushy here, this is primarily a business blog (find me on Facebook to read about some of the memories and see pics).  But I did want to share this as he really was an incredible man who touched so many lives. He was a doctor, but studied English in college – that was the part rubbed off on me; and of course influenced me and my four siblings in so many wonderful ways.

Dr. Herbert Z. Geller, 1931-2017

Dr. Herbert Z. Geller passed away on August 20, 2017. He was 86 years old. Dr. Geller was born January 17, 1931 in Bronx, NY, the only child of Morris and Rose Geller. He graduated with a B.A. Degree from NYU, received his MD degree from University of Chicago, and completed a Residency in Diagnostic Radiology at SUNY Downstate. He married Udell Fishman and they raised a family of five children in Rockland County, NY. Dr. Geller was a distinguished physician and a pillar of the community. He was a founder of the Monsey Jewish Center, the founding partner of Hudson Valley Radiology Associates, and served in numerous leadership positions at Nyack Hospital including Chairman of Department of Radiology. Dr. Geller is survived by his wife Udell, his sons Mark (and daughter-in law Trish), Bob, Paul and David (and daughter-in-law Lori) , daughter Amy, and grandchildren Michael, Jacob, Carli, Jordyn, Maya, Sam, Oliver, Dylan, and Olivia.

Posted in Obits | 1 Comment

PR for Dummies, via Trump and the Mooch

The Trump presidency is the gift that keeps on giving when it comes to educating the masses about PR (I know this might seem myopic but hey, I’m trying to look on the bright side),

Those in the field can appreciate that most people don’t understand what we actually do. But since Trump’s unconventional campaign took off, and through the first six months on the job, it’s been hard to deny this man’s knack for getting press attention. He has invaded many of my conversations with friends and family.  At some point eyes turn to me, seeming to accuse or inquire: “Hmmm.  This seems like something you should know something about.  What is it you do again?”

Each news cycle brings a teachable moment for the newswriters and cable talking heads to explain the meaning of things like optics, press briefings, messaging, earned media, etc.  The past couple of weeks – in the wake of the shuffling of Trump’s comms team – have taught the masses about the various roles, e.g. what a communications director vs. a press secretary’s job entails.

We’ve also learned about the enduring importance of the media. Clearly, Trump and his advisors would rather get glowing coverage about accomplishments, despite his attacks on the press and supposed ability to end run them via Twitter.

Yes there’s such a thing as bad PR and it hurts. For all the abilitÿ to seize the news cycle, Trump and team can’t control the headlines. Their attempts to do so resemble the clumsy fumbling of an overheated adolescent male in the back seat of the car.

Finally, the hot mess roller coaster called Scaramucci teaches one thing that us PR pros knew all along.  Kids, don’t try this at home. This media relations thing ain’t so easy, experience counts (he was brought on as comms director with no actual training in the field).

Even a junior PR account executive knows that you don’t call a reporter and vent on the record, handing a nice scoop over and getting walking papers in return (and his chagrined tweet to the effect that now he’s learned to never trust a reporter. That is rich).

What do you think?  If you’re interested in the topic, please see my other posts on Trump and PR.

Posted in Campaign Analysis, Current Affairs, Politics, PR | Leave a comment

Your Greatest Foe on Social Media – How to Fight Back

Who’s your biggest foe on social media?  Does company A have a bigger social footprint? Is competitor B getting more engagement and sharing?

Actually, if you are in B2B tech marketing, your biggest competitor is not any single company.  To truly understand who’s beating you out, you should recall the famous words: there’s nothing to fear but fear itself. That’s right, fear, or more generally, emotions, can steal your thunder and customer’s attention.

It’s been documented that emotion-rich posts and content are the ones that are most shared.  And consumer marketers have a decided advantage over B2B when it comes to emotion.

The Growth of Social News Sharing

These days more of us are spending more time heads down, looking at our phones and surfing social channels. News and other info come to us, through newsfeeds and social sharing.

Viral cat videos, real news, fake news, vacation pictures and political rants all get mixed into the same soupy mess.  And what rises to the top?  It’s often the stuff that pushes our emotional buttons. We push a button, we share, like, inundate friends and family and signal Facebook that we favor this kind of content.  This leads to more of the same.

The last presidential campaign was a great illustration of this. Much of the fake and real news stories pushed our emotional buttons, e.g. made us angry, surprised or afraid, and drove social sharing.

Fighting Emotions with Emotions

What’s a B2B marketer to do? Should you just accept that you’ll never get people to swoon over your widget launch news – and settle for a smaller audience?

Steve Rubel of Edelman asked publishers about “emotion baiting” at the recent Newswhip Whipsmart conference, which I attended.  It was a great session, you can read more here. The post starts with this excerpt:

“Clickbait could be going “the way of the dodo”, according to Edelman’s Steve Rubel. We explore how expert newsrooms are supercharging their content with emotion instead.”

These days, many brands are publishers too.  They can try injecting emotion into their content and news.  E.g. tech vendors have long used Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt to undermine the competition.  FUD battles used to be fought in the media.   The tactic could be applied to content and digital channels.

There’s no reason that you couldn’t tap other emotions, e.g. create videos that make people smile, tell startup stories that inspire and impress.

Bloomberg Gets all Emo

When asked by Rubel if emotion-baiting has a place in business content, Meena Thiruvengadam from Bloomberg said:

“I think it’s about being fair and accurate… and not taking things a step too far to drive virality or shares… There are some things where there are natural emotional elements, like ‘this CEO went from getting fired to creating this amazing business empire’… That speaks to aspiration, inspiration, encouragement, and motivation…  but for something like ‘here are the monthly job numbers’  … that’s going to be much harder… you can only trick your audience so long before they get wise to it. You want to present your content honestly, and what’s good content will speak for itself.”

Tech vendors don’t need to follow the same newsroom standards as Bloomberg, still they should be careful.  You don’t want to be seen as the inauthentic drama king or queen or be tone deaf to your target audience.  E.g., humor might not fly when it comes to things like compliance and legal tech.

Tap other Social Sharing Levers

Another approach is to look at other sharing levers on social media.  It is not all just about emotions.

Content marketing guru Jay Baer wrote a Medium piece on this recently.  He cited research about the types of content that are most effective for vertical markets.  It’s worth a read.  For tech, the data show that long form and listicle articles work well.

What do you think?  Does emotion have a place in your marketing? Did my headline make you fearful – and compel you to read and share (I hope so!)

Thanks for reading and any feedback.

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Hot Startups Join Axis Innovation at NYSE

I enjoyed last year’s Axis Innovation NYSE event, which showcased hot Israeli startups and also included a visit to the floor at the opening bell (you can read more about it here). So when Axis CEO Ed Frank invited me back, I quickly said yes, and attended yesterday.

Axis connects investors and corporations with tech startups. The NYSE session was part of a two day event that includes “leading Israeli series A tech startups and US VCs, angels, and corporate investors… to develop business opportunities and ultimately make deals,” according to their site

The keynote was delivered by Uri Tamir of Mobileeye, a paragon of Israeli entrepreneurship, as they are being acquired by Intel for $15B. Below I share highlights of each presenting company.

WeavingThings: An IoT connectivity framework that enables the creation of IoT services from devices and sensors. According to Co-founder Asaf Ezra, WeavingThings simplifies IoT and dramatically reduces time to develop and deploy solutions.

SimpleOrder: A restaurant inventory management platform that optimizes and streamlines back office restaurant operations. It features online purchasing, automatic inventory, real-time food and menu costing, POS sales integration and more. CEO Guy Even Ezra framed the problem by describing an experience we can all relate to.  You are at your favorite restaurant, and the waiter says they ran out of a menu item. “We solve a huge problem for food distribution by reversing the supply chain,” Guy said.

Rentigo: A property management solution that meets the needs of small and large property managers and landlords while addressing the growing demands of modern tenants with a simple and user-friendly solution.  CEO Sivan Blasenheim said that Rentigo is bringing payment tech expertise and a free mobile CRM to real estate, where many still pay by paper check and manage businesses with spreadsheets.

Prifender: Uses artificial intelligence to discover and map personal information across networks and systems so organizations can better manage sensitive data and comply with laws and regulations.

Intervyo: The first and most advanced interview simulation engine.  It leverages predictive analytics to screen candidates, and accurately assess their suitability for the job.  Veronica (I did not get her last name) said that Intervyo replaces resume and first-round interview screening.

Focuus: Their vision is to automate the entire marketing analysis process, helping advertisers and agencies to scale easily and become market leaders. CEO Yotam Benattia said that most digital marketing systems are passive. Focuus shows campaign KPIs in real time.  This helps you adjust course and boost results.

FirstPoint:  They offer comprehensive and unique cellular cyber security solutions, protecting enterprise mobile and IoT devices.

Cinch: CEO Maya Komerov said that the app turns your phone into a money-saving wallet. It connects users with local businesses, supporting them while boosting the neighborhood economy.

Beam Semiconductor: Develops active phased array wireless transceivers to support multi-gigabit per second data rates. CEO Stacy Joseph showed off the tiny chip, which replaces large parabolic dishes and is also an alternative to fiber optic buildouts.

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Jennifer Johnson Schools on PR and Positioning at NYETM

I attended and really enjoyed last week’s NY Enterprise Tech Meetup, which focused on marketing. Jennifer Johnson, the keynote speaker, was a real dynamo. Her bio on the NYETM agenda said: Jennifer is CMO of Tenable,  was formerly CMO of Tanium, a Partner at a16z, and CMO of Coverity, so she’s got very legit enterprise marketing chops! Chops, indeed, Jennifer brought Silicon Valley cred and her talk delivered on the promise.

She spoke about topics I love (and have covered here): tech industry categories and positioning. Jennifer started out with a visual sure to strike fear in the hearts of anyone seeking to compete and differentiate in tech (and confuse all, in general): the vaunted technology landscape (see image).

How to stand apart? It gets down to creating and owning a category. According to Jennifer, “category kings” take 76% of the markets they compete in. The strategy is covered in Play Bigger, the book and consulting firm of the same name – who Jennifer worked with in a previous life.

To do this, you need to frame a problem from the customer’s POV. Do it well and you box out the competition and win. She shared examples; Salesforce, No software. Airbnb: Live anywhere.

Jennifer also gave out a shout out to the power of PR: “Some say PR is dead; I disagree completely.” (Here here, not dead yet!) Winning in marketing is about conducting “air wars and ground wars,” she said. “Great press casts that big shadow; in the ground war you try to reach every persona.”

Also, there were two great vendor demos at the meetup: Kustomer and Vendorful.

Kustomer was demo’d by their COO Rob Bailey.  It’s a CRM for customer support teams that looks like a great way to reduce churn.

Vendorful brings much needed improvement to the RFP process. Their CEO David Wadler, and co-founder and head of product Peter Bonney presented.

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