A single conversation – Caen and Cain

Right now it seems that everyone around Northern California has something to talk about. The Giants.  That you can turn to basically anyone and mention the Giants and start a conversation is amazing.  This made me think about how San Francisco and the Bay Area misses the voice of Herb Caen.  I grew up with the “items” of Herb Caen starting many conversations around my family, friends and people around San Francisco.

Herb provided a common narrative. When people ask why I care so much about sports, this is why. Right now, the Giants are creating a common narrative and creating a way for people to connect without animosity.  I think Herb Caen would be fascinated with this band of misfits, castoffs, and overachievers. He would have written about the “mild mannered Volunteer,” Matt Cain, and created a play on words that we would all chuckle at.

Image from SFGate.com - Photo: Michael Macor / San Francisco Chronicle

It’s OK to jump on the bandwagon. It’s OK to be part of something special. It’s OK to have something that everyone can believe in. I just wish there was something that made it happen a little more often.




Favorite headline of the day: Plastic from poop

The headline is from the San Francisco Chronicle, but the company, Micromidas is from Sacramento/Davis. For a little deeper look at how, Micromidas”processes sewage sludge, the hardened layer of waste from sewage treatment facilities, into Polyhydroxyalkanoates, or PHAs,” check out this article from The Sacramento Press.


One more reminder that the Sacramento area has an outstanding research community that could be the driver of innovation in the region.

Social Media and Political Advertising – Sourcing Your Profiles

Social media seems to be made for politics.  Social media tools make it easy to share information and connect with others.  I’ve heard it said many times, OK I’ve probably said it as well, that I’m glad this stuff wasn’t around when I was in college. But it turns out, it’s not just college memories that can be mined for attacks by opponents.

Take a look at the screen shot below:

Image taken from video posted by DCCC2010 on YouTube.

See the text at the bottom?  That’s where a newspaper or broadcast news report is usually sourced for a quote. Not this time, it was the candidate’s own LinkedIn profile.

In this case, the profile was merely used as a reference that he worked for JPMorganChase, which was also disclosed in many other locations. But, it’s just a matter of time until you see something like,” source:  Facebook status update at 1:23 am.”

Here’s the complete ad so you can see the context:


With all of this in mind, just remember, once you put it out there, it’s out there. Forever.

It’s teaching time again!

In 2008, I started teaching a class at UC Davis Extension on Social Media.  My knowledge of social media has come from my own use and watching and listening to others over several years. I’ve now taught that course for three years, and tomorrow I start teaching a new course for UC Davis Extension, this time on something I studied myself in college.

My degree is in Communication with a Public Relations Emphasis, and the course I’m teaching is Essentials of Public Relations.  Some things have changed since I took my classes at UOP in the early 90’s. Some things haven’t.

Things that haven’t changed in PR since I studied as an undergrad:

  • Need for strong professional ethics in communication;
  • Focus on effective writing;
  • Clear identification of objectives; and
  • Whining about how the profession isn’t taken seriously enough.

Things that have changed in PR since I studied as an undergrad:

  • The rise of the voice of many with freely available publishing tools, i.e. social media;
  • Simultaneous decrease and increase of media outlets with those tools;
  • Ability to get the word out without using the media or advertising through self-publishing; and
  • Need for companies and organizations to listen to and respond to customers directly and publicly.

This isn’t an exhaustive list but the ones that first came to mind.  I’ve been in working in PR for 15 years now, and I’m still learning.  If you work in PR, what’s changed for you since you started?  What would you like to make sure these students learn about our profession?


“Someone named Emerson Foote” – Agency Lessons From Mad Men Episode 412 “Blowing Smoke”


Image from AMCTV.com


Sterling, Cooper Draper and Pryce is reeling from losing their largest client, Lucky Strike Tobacco.  They are being dropped by current clients, and shunned by new business prospects who aren’t sure if they’ll survive.



Don Draper takes it upon himself to write an open letter as a full-page ad in The NY Times entitled, “Why I’m Quitting Tobacco.”

Image from AMCTV.com

The idea for the letter came from a suggestion that Peggy Olson made that perhaps if they don’t like what is being said, they should, “change the conversation.” Don changed it from “we got dumped,” to we know cigarettes are addictive in many ways to many people including us.

The real inspiration was hidden in a comment from his assistant when he asked if there had been any calls the morning the ad ran,” Yes, quite a few, mostly from reporters and citizens, Dr. Miller….and someone named Emerson Foote.”

If the name seems familiar, it may be because his name is still associated with one of the most successful advertising agencies of all time Foote, Cone & Belding (now DraftFCB).

One of Mr. Foote’s early jobs in advertising was on the American Tobacco account. He later became an anti-smoking advocate and resigned the account, which at the time was one of the largest account resignations in advertising history.

The ad by Don made the phone ring.  Might mean new business, might mean the end of the agency.  No matter what, he changed the conversation.

For more on Emerson Foote, here’s an article about him from Time in 1967, and his obituary from the NY Times when he died at age 85 in 1992.