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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

This month in history: Bring back Boxing Day

Many Goff & Howard team members are avid history aficionados, and having recently graduated from college with a degree in history, I have decided to share Goff & Howard’s love for history with you each month. I hope you’ll indulge this momentary change of pace from our normal industry-related topics.

Boxing Day, which falls on December 26, is a holiday that has always perplexed me. The holiday seems to have been misnamed, because contrary to my belief as a little kid, it is not a day full of boxing matches. This holiday season, I pledge to unearth the meaning of this mysterious holiday.

Although the exact origin of Boxing Day is unknown, the holiday stems from an old tradition begun by the British elite. The day after Christmas, members of the upper class would give small gifts and money to their servants. The holiday got its name from the earthenware boxes in which the servants would receive their gifts.

Boxing Day, which was originally meant to preserve class lines, has transformed into a more modern philanthropic day in which people donate money to charities. The holiday is officially celebrated in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Germany, Greenland, and New Zealand. The United States also observed Boxing Day before declaring independence from Britain and renouncing all traditional British holidays.

I think it’s about time we start celebrating Boxing Day again. This holiday season, charitable giving in the United States has decreased while demand for services has more than doubled for some nonprofits. So, please join me in donating much needed money, food or gifts to your favorite charity on December 26.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Stopping the presses – 142 times in 2009

It’s a great line in a movie and a cliché many of us use. Yet as we come to the end of the year, the presses did actually stop running for 142 daily and weekly newspapers this year.

In places where the presses still run, there are fewer reporters filling the pages that hold the ink and information. More than 90,000 people lost jobs in the various print publishing industries in the past 12 months.

It’s no secret that traditional, mainstream media is struggling to adapt to a world full of Google News, Facebook, and Twitter feeds. But as fast as information moves today, context is sometimes lost.

More points of view and more information helps us all better understand issues, ideas, and what it all means. Yet as of this year, there are fewer traditional voices sharing information and ideas.

Erica Smith a “veteran media executive,” has created a map that shows the different places where news organizations have closed.

We thought the map and the perspective is interesting as we look at what happened this year and what 2010 could be like.

Monday, December 7, 2009

This month in history: Neon invades the Big Apple

Can you imagine a time when New York City’s most famous landmark, Times Square, was just another intersection? When the square’s sidewalks were not bustling with thousands of people swarming the sidewalks? When the building’s towering exteriors were not covered in bright, flashing advertisements?

As hard as it is to imagine, New York City used to be farm land, and Times Square was just another place where horses grazed. When colonists settled the area, they established the city, and by the late nineteenth century, the area had grown into a bustling metropolis. When the New York Times moved to the intersection in 1904, the intersection became known as Times Square. Just three weeks later, the first electric advertisement graced the building’s side, and the first advertisement with scrolling script shone light up the intersection in 1928. Now, dazzling neon displays saturate the night skyline, leaving awestruck tourists wishing they had worn sunglasses at night.

Times Square has grown to be one of the many symbols that represent America and capitalism at its finest. The scrolling text introduced in 1928 that flashes news headlines and stock figures around the square was a technology that signaled a new era of electronic communications – an era that was just beginning to take America by storm.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Newspapers’ circulations may be worse than they seem

In October, a study was released reporting that the circulation of 400 daily newspapers had fallen 10.6% during April-September 2009. Over the weekend, a little reproduced AP story reported that the Audit Bureau of Circulations standards have changed and may be masking a greater decline in reader circulation than previously reported.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Serving Our Troops Recognized Nationally

Yesterday, Serving Our Troops, a Minnesota-based volunteer organization that Goff & Howard has supported from its beginning, received the Chief of the National Guard Bureau Civilian Award for Excellence. Serving Our Troops is the first civilian group ever to receive this award from the Joint Leadership Conference.

Since 2004, Serving Our Troops has given active-duty Minnesota National Guard soldiers and their families the opportunity to share a meal together, despite the distance. Live video-links between Minnesota and the various locations where troops are on active duty allow the families to share time together. So far, Serving Our Troops has shipped and served more than 40,000 steak dinners to Minnesota National Guard soldiers in Kosovo, Iraq, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Saint Paul and Rochester, Minnesota.

This December, Serving Our Troops volunteers are preparing to send more than 10,000 steak dinners to soldiers stationed in Iraq and Kuwait. This will be the organization’s seventh event. Serving Our Troops is looking for volunteers to help with the event, which will take place Saturday, December 12. For more information, visit www.servingourtroops.com or call 651/698-4615.

Congratulations on this well-deserved award! We appreciate all that you do to support our troops and look forward to supporting this worthy cause in December.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Giving back during the holidays: More than just good PR

The holidays provide us with many opportunities to give back to the community. You might ask why I’m bringing this up at the beginning of November, but now is the time to sign up for holiday charity opportunities.

The economic downturn has caused an increased demand at food shelves around the Twin Cities. Second Harvest Heartland needs food and volunteers during the Holidays. Also, the Salvation Army is looking for bell ringers. In December, Goff & Howard will be participating in Ramsey County Community Human Services Department’s Family Sponsorship Program in December. And, there are countless more opportunities for you to give back to the community.

While these philanthropic activities are first and foremost about the charity, they can also generate publicity opportunities for your company. Businesses that are new in the community, working to build a base of support, or trying to encourage others to donate may want to publicize their donations. By choosing to publicize your donations, you can build public goodwill for your company.

If you need help figuring out if and how to share information about your companies’ philanthropic activities, we are happy to help you. Thank you for giving back to the community – it’s the right thing to do.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Last summer's Twitter revolution in Iran now seen as “Astro-turf”

What with bad economic news, heated health care policy debate in Washington, H1N1 scares, and other recent news, it’s easy to already forget one of the summer’s seemingly remarkable news stories: the revolutionary use of Twitter by Iranian dissidents to communicate with the outside world after Iran’s controversial presidential election and the subsequent political crackdown.

Well, the much-vaunted generation of young citizen-activists who were using social media to take back their country from the clutches of Ahmadinejad’s regime turns out to be a lot less connected and representative than we were told. A pair of British media analysts will soon issue a report which concludes that the Iranian Twitter revolution was overblown and oversold by the U.S. and European mainstream media. “The meme was just too tempting, it seems, for anyone to dig into its veracity. The media…loves to write about Twitter,” writes Ravi Somaiya at Gawker.com about the authors’ work. The report will contrast fulsome Western claims with sobering data about the connectedness of the Iran people developed by a social media analytics company.

It turns out that many non-Iranian Twitter users switched their “locations” to Tehran to inflate the miniscule number of Iranian users cited by foreign reporters at the time. All of this is not to denigrate the grassroots courage of Iranians fighting their repressive government at home or the small number of genuine social media users who organized others at home and shared real information with the rest of the world. But in our turbulent era of mass communications, technological innovations, and disruptions, we should beware of oversold claims about “revolutionary” change.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Cautions for Thesaurus Junkies

Have you ever found yourself adding multi-syllable words to your writing in hopes of making yourself look smarter? Is the thesaurus your favorite function in Microsoft Word? If so, take the time to consider the following.

When using big words, good communicators should ensure that both they and their audiences know the meaning of the words. Written and verbal communications are only effective if people know what you are trying to tell them. Although a large vocabulary is an important addition to your verbal and written repertoire, your credibility will instantly decrease if you misuse large words. Without taking the time to assess your verbiage, you run the risk of sounding either unintelligent or pretentious.

So, when you press shift F7 and the thesaurus offers large word after large word, remember it’s often better to trade your syllables for clarity.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Congratulations Chris Coleman!

Mayor Chris Coleman was re-elected to his second term as Saint Paul’s chief executive yesterday. Mayor Coleman is an alumnus of Goff & Howard, and all of us here have enjoyed working with him and his staff on a variety of issues on vital interest to Saint Paul. All of us at Goff & Howard, a company proud of its Saint Paul connections, extend our former colleague heartfelt congratulations!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Don't forget to give credit where credit is due

As a recent college graduate, I am well aware of the importance of citing my sources. Each semester, professors reiterated the same spiel on the evils of plagiarism. I listened to them and never wrote a research paper without properly giving other authors credit for their work. But, as I was writing essay after essay, it never dawned on me that citing sources would be a valuable skill outside of college.

To write the most accurate and compelling material, Goff & Howard’s writers draw from all types of sources – government reports, company surveys, and scholarly works only begin to touch the surface of the research we do at Goff & Howard.

Citations legitimize the information presented in written work. By attributing facts and statistics to their original authors, readers are able to return to the original source to double check the statistic or learn more about a topic that interests them. Rather than bog down a sentence with excessive wordiness, these simple citation phrases actually help each sentence flow into the next.

If you question when or how to properly cite your sources, Goff & Howard’s writers can help you any time.

Friday, October 23, 2009

This month in history: A new age of communication

You might not know that many Goff & Howard team members are avid history aficionados. We revel in the little-known quirks of our world’s past and live each day to make obscure references that only the best and brightest of our fellow history buffs will understand. To share our love of history, GH Spin has graciously given us the space to share the idiosyncrasies of our favorite hobby.

In October 1860 – nearly 150 years ago – the United States finished construction on the first transcontinental telegraph line. Although telegraphic communication had been improving communication between East Coast cities for several years, this telegraph line, which connected Los Angeles and New York, reduced the feelings of isolation that many West Coast citizens were experiencing. The telegraph ushered in a new age of communication and connected a nation that was separated by a vast, largely unsettled midsection.

As we look back on this impressive feat that spanned more than 2,000 miles, we can’t help but think about how the first transcontinental telegraph line spawned a frantic evolution of communication technology. As people got used to a new style of communication that was significantly quicker than the Pony Express, the telegraph gave way to the telephone, and people were able to connect with each other even faster.

And now, in the 21st century, the world could not function without the lightning quick speed of the Internet and its communication glories, such as e-mail, online social networking, and – of course – blogs. The evolution of communication technology has become survival of the fastest, and so, the question now becomes, what will be the next frontier of communication?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Patty Dunn appointed to MOCA board

The Goff & Howard team has always made community and civic involvement a priority, contributing to boards and causes that make the metro area a place we’re proud to live and work. Our latest board appointment is Patty Dunn, who will serve on the board of directors for the Minnesota Ovarian Cancer Alliance (MOCA).

An ovarian cancer survivor, Patty has been active in MOCA for years. Goff & Howard has also gotten involved, donating silent auction prizes for special events and making pledges in honor of Patty’s participation in MOCA’s annual 5K run. One of our employees even sold homemade apple pies this year in support of the cause.

Part of MOCA’s mission is to raise awareness of ovarian cancer to help boost early detection and raise money for research. With Patty’s help, the organization hopes to increase ovarian cancer awareness.

Congratulations, Patty.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Spelling online: even Homer nods off

Our senior writer, Tricia Nissen, previously blogged on a humorous and rare spelling lapse at the White House. As a communications company, Goff & Howard knows that small errors in spelling, grammar and punctuation occasionally can happen, but we have a zero-tolerance policy, because mistakes, if not caught, slowly but surely erode the communicator’s credibility.

The conservative standards adhered to by communications professionals (e.g., mainstream media journalists, PR types like us, and political flacks) don’t apply very well in the real world of Web 2.0. For example, in reading online comments to blogs and news stories, I am often struck by the rampant, casual spelling errors made – and not corrected. (But, hey, we’re talking about an all-too-causal medium where the spectrum of contributions runs from thoughtful, closely reasoned contributions to ad hominem attacks devoid of originality, taste or civility.)

We the readers of a posted comment can often “fill in the blanks” from context . . . some of the time. Someone may write “no” meaning “now” without hitting the third keystroke, or it might mean “know” because their synapses were shorting out. We might figure out the meaning, but we’re usually left wondering slightly about the poster himself/herself. (“Is he or she an idiot, just sloppy, or functioning on only two hours of sleep over the past three days?”)

Of course, that ubiquitous crutch – spell-check – isn’t quite so readily available when leaving online comments. And if someone is in a hurry to post or shaking in rage to respond, taking a few moments to ensure his or her thoughts are expressed in standard English, error-free, isn’t a priority.

So as a service to you, dear reader, who may be inclined to post a comment online sometime, please be forewarned on “Eight Spelling Mistakes Even Smart People Make.”

Just remember the Roman poet Horace’s judgment on trivial mistakes made by even the greatest of ancient poets: “I still get annoyed whenever the great Homer nods off” (Ars poetica 358-9).

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

American news consumers turn to the U.K.

Okay, okay. I admit to being a bit of an Anglophile. My favorite TV program (make that programme) is BBC Two’s Top Gear; I’d prefer a Guinness over an American lager anytime; and with the exception of Jimi Hendrix – who lived in the U.K. during his glory years – I regard Brits to have given us the greatest rock gods of the '60s and '70s. Of course, lots of other Yanks have a special fondness for things British, even without the over-romanticized special relationship.

But now it turns out that we on this side of the pond have been increasing our ties to the mother country in a new way (make that news way). This report at paidContent.org says that we news-consuming Americans are increasing our reading of U.K. news Web sites to supplement what the domestic MSM (main stream media) are providing here. In fact, in the last year alone, Americans accounted for 54% of the total increase in traffic to U.K. news sites, compared with only 8% from Brits themselves.

The article notes that the Drudge Report accounts for some of the increased traffic. But other factors must surely be at work. Critics of Congressional and Obama administration health care proposals have been drawing many analogies to the U.K.’s National Health Service in recent months, increasing U.S. interest in the state of health care in the U.K. Uneasiness over fiscal and foreign (i.e. Afganistan) policies in both countries is contributing to increased American interest in what our cousins are thinking and writing about.

But my personal theory is that the quality of reporting and commentary has a lot to do with our virtual travel to U.K. news too. While there are tough-minded, good national reporters covering finance, business, government, and politics in the United States, the British press is so much more truculent when it’s needed. Our national media outlets cover the economic crisis and other consequential events with sameness and blandness. The left- and right-biased cable TV programs and talk radio are mind-numbingly unedifying. (I, a certifiable libertarian right-winger, can not stomach FOX News Channel anymore than I can liberal, statist talking heads in the MSM.) Paul Krugman’s phoned-in Keynesian blather is reprinted in every major newspaper in the country. So if you want something different, say, for example, original analysis on the international financial markets, you can read Ambrose Evans-Pritchard’s column in the U.K.’s Daily Telegraph. Even when AE-P seems wrongheaded, he is imminently thought-provoking. When’s the last time one could say that about CNBC’s Jim Cramer?

Whatever the causes of our transatlantic news gathering, let’s hope it is improving our perspective. American society (and politics) is far too narcissistic. We too readily believe our own myth-making and consider our actions, even misguided ones, to be virtuous. We too easily think the globalization of the economy is all about us. We have always benefited from outsiders' views of the world and America – from Tocqueville to Alistair Cooke – even when we don’t agree with them.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Remembering William Safire

Bill Safire passed away yesterday. He was a PR man turned Nixon speechwriter turned token conservative New York Times columnist.

His legacy in political journalism was a mixture of political courage (e.g., his outspoken criticism of the PATRIOT Act) and fascination, if establishmentarian coziness, in the halls of power. He was a captive of personal agendas (what columnist isn’t?), but more often offered provocative and interesting viewpoints. Perhaps his more important legacy was as a careful and joyful practitioner of public communications, and as a close observer of the uses and abuses of language – semantic, syntactic, political and cultural.

I first consciously became aware of Safire’s wonderful wit and fearless intellect when I encountered one of his books in my teens. During my childhood, dictionaries were very important. (My father was a lexicographer and his magnum opus, a new Modern Greek-English dictionary on the principles of the Oxford English Dictionary, was a constant in our family’s life.) After reading my sister’s copies of Ayn Rand and old MAD magazines from the late '60s and early '70s, I developed a precocious interest in politics. So my personal interest and my family’s unique cross to bear intersected perfectly when I discovered Safire’s Political Dictionary (third edition) in 1978, his lexicon of political coinages, phrases and terms. Like millions of others, I later enjoyed and learned from the wide range of his writings – the political and “On Language” columns in the NYT, memoirs, novels, and collections of quotations and speeches.

In many mediums, Safire shared his boundless joy in the creative use of language for persuasion, edification and fun. Though he sometimes erred (and erred badly on the Iraq war), he used his intelligence and experience to keep Washington power brokers (of whom he became one) a little more honest.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Happy Punctuation Day!

That’s right – September 24 is the official day to celebrate commas, colons, semicolons, and other punctuation marks that grace our English language.

If you would like to participate in a simple way: Smile as you read this.

If you would like to pay serious homage to the occasion: Consult your favorite style guide to help you determine when to replace a comma with a dash.

If you are an over-the-top Punctuation Day enthusiast: Produce a pastry in the shape of a punctuation mark and submit it by September 30 to National Punctuation Day, 1517 Buckeye Court, Pinole, CA 94564. For more information, visit www.nationalpunctuationday.com. (This is not a joke.)

Chief Punctuation Enthusiast
Goff & Howard, Inc.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Hiring in 2009

At the end of August, we sadly said goodbye to Aubrey Shermock, our writing teammate, who left us to attend graduate school in Cincinnati. We also set out to find our next writer, starting a hiring process that we take very seriously at Goff & Howard.

Following are a few of my observations on the process, which in 2009 is very different from the last time we did this.

• There was no need for a paid advertisement. By communicating through our employees’ networks and tools like Twitter and Facebook, as well as posting the job opening on a PR blog, we received more responses than I ever recall getting from an ad.

• There was also no need for a post office box (and therefore no paper waste). People e-mailed us their cover letters, resumes, and writing samples.

• The world is full of outstanding people looking for jobs in the communications world. The work experience of new college grads is particularly impressive. Many of them had multiple internship experiences and skills that they consider second-nature – like tweeting and blogging. Some even have Web sites devoted to their job search, so that we just went to a person’s site to find his or her resume, references, blogs, and other useful information.

Now, weeks later, we have selected our next writer. We are very excited to introduce her… soon, very soon.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

School year shifts office flexibility into high gear

Kids are back in school. Families are forming their routines for the next nine months. At work, clients seem to be shifting to a higher level of get-things-done mode.

Goff & Howard parents have a total of 15 kids in pre-K through high school. When Goff & Howard won a Best Places to Work award recently, one of the reasons for the honor was our family-friendliness. Occasionally one of our kids needs to come to work for a day (the photo shows Heidi Larson and her son Andrew, who visited our office during one of the last days of summer vacation before entering first grade), and other days we want to volunteer in the classroom or on field trips.

Sometimes we need extra time at home at the beginning or end of the school day. Thanks to cell phone and e-mail access outside the office, clients can reach us and we can stay in touch with the team even as we wait for a school bus to arrive.

To strike the right balance at work, we continue to focus on coming together as a team during the day. The value of face-to-face contact in serving our clients will never be replaced, even as technology enables us to sometimes do our jobs outside the office.

Giving employees the flexibility to accommodate their children’s needs is very important at Goff & Howard. By helping them balance their work lives and family lives, we believe that our team produces their best work.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Harvest time at a special garden

Students from the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe's Nay Ah Shing Schools started a garden to plant, maintain and harvest produce that will be used in their lunches and nutrition education classes. The project is helping students learn more about where their food comes from and how to eat healthier.

Nay Ah Shing Schools are now working with the Band's DNR on a plan to develop another garden bed to grow strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and other fruit next season. Work has also started on a friendship garden on the east side of the Mille Lacs Band's government center.

Click here to read more info about the project.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Can’t put a price on team

Companies everywhere are doing their best to make it through the economic slump. I’m really proud that even though times have been tough, Goff & Howard remains a company where people like to work.

When Goff & Howard recently won its third Best Places to Work award from the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, it helped reaffirm that the decisions we’ve made as company leaders during this recession have been the right ones.

Planning ahead for 2009, we made it our top priority to retain every employee. Goff & Howard has always been a stable company that few people leave, and we value our employees as our most important asset.

This priority has involved financial sacrifice in other areas, but not in ways that change the upbeat tone of our office. We recognize that our company culture of showing gratitude for great work, taking pride in our team, and caring for our employees and their families are what make Goff & Howard special. We continue to do all of these things – perhaps in more cost-conscious ways, but in ways that still show our employees our commitment to their happiness at work. We also continue to communicate with them about how the company is doing and how they can help keep us on track.

We have succeeded in keeping every employee on board and busy. Like other challenges, we are taking this economy on as a team.

Friday, August 21, 2009

A piece of desert

“Who would like a piece of desert?”

If you are pausing, wondering, or questioning your spelling skills right now, there is a good reason. Or, if you are picturing sand dunes and cacti, you’re wondering what my previous sentence means.

Either way, I am getting my point across. One little letter can make a big difference.

What I meant to ask was, “Who would like a piece of dessert?” You know – like a delicious piece of apple crisp.

But my spell check didn’t detect my incorrect spelling, probably for two reasons:
1) because “desert” is a word, and
2) because it is possible that I could have meant “desert,” as in “Who would like to own land in the desert?”

Computers’ spelling and grammar check systems miss all kinds of misspellings and extra words. For example, none of these sentences/words set off any red flags on my screen:
• He has no patients.
• She is a descent person.
• The writing is in the wall.
• The writing is the wall.
• School funding cuts would harm on Minnesota students.

Don’t get me wrong; I appreciate and fully utilize the spelling and grammar check in my writing. It catches some things that I might otherwise miss.

Just don’t let it give you any false security. Read and re-read what you write. Or, ideally, have someone you trust edit and proofread your business documents.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Good news for PR people is not so good news for parents of middle schoolers

A recent study – forwarded to The GH Spin by a friend at KMSP-TV – delivered some heartening news to those of us in the PR biz. But it was a little disconcerting to those of us who also have children entering middle school this year.
The study, funded by the Arthur W. Page Center for Integrity in Public Communication at Penn State University, found that PR pros ranked high in a test of ethical reasoning. Some journalists might even be surprised to hear that PR pros ranked as high as they did in the study. We also ranked as high as nurses and dental students and outscored orthopedic surgeons, business professionals, accounting students, and veterinary students.
On the flip side, junior high/middle school students ranked low in ethical thinking . . . even lower than prison inmates.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Social media growing pains

Your friends are not the only ones watching and reading what you say via Facebook status updates. Employers are now monitoring their employees’ social media activity and are more likely to take aggressive action when policies related to multimedia sharing and posting are violated.

According to a new study by Proofpoint, an Internet security firm, of companies with 1,000 or more employees, 17 percent report having issues with employees’ use of social media. And, 8 percent of those companies report having dismissed someone for their behavior on sites like Facebook and LinkedIn. That’s double from last year, where just 4 percent reported having to fire someone over social media misuse.

Some of this can be attributed to a lack of common sense by employees. Dan Leone, an employee of the Philadelphia Eagles is a good example of someone who did not understand the impact a Facebook status update can have. Dan expressed his “displeasure” with the team’s decision to not resign a player. Eagle’s management saw his Facebook post ["Dan is [expletive] devastated about Dawkins signing with Denver ... Dam Eagles R Retarted!!"] and fired Dan.

As Facebook and other social media channels grow, what we as employees say, do, and post does not always stay in our immediate personal network. Companies are continuing to react to the exploding use of a technology that makes it easy for everyone to share their thoughts and opinions with almost anyone. Employees like the freedom to express thoughts and ideas, but may not always understand and acknowledge the impact of their actions.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

340 million visitors = advertisers

If Facebook seems a bit more crowded these days, there is a good reason.

Among the daily updates from friends and photos from a weekend outing, are messages from companies who are now investing money to be part of our social media world. According to a recent story in the Financial Times, mainstream brands are racing to reach out to people via Facebook.

More than 80 percent of the largest U.S. advertisers are using Facebook to promote themselves, suggesting that corporate America has embraced the social networking site as a mainstream promotional platform.

Many companies had previously been nervous that a logo or brand message could end up next to offensive content, but apparently, 340 million unique monthly visitors seem to be more than enough to help ease the corporate world’s fear.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Rock Star PR Move

In compiling its list of most overpaid and underpaid CEOs, The Business Journal offered all CEOs on the list the opportunity to comment. Those comments were printed alongside the list in last Friday’s issue.

Vascular Solutions’ Howard Root, who was among those deemed “underpaid,” wins the GH Spin’s award for best PR move with this gem:

“TO THE EDITOR: I received your letter on the list of CEO compensation. My only comment is that my dad, who grew up on a farm during the Great Depression, tells me that anyone making over half a million a year can’t possibly be ‘underpaid.’ I agree, so maybe you can say I’m ‘less well paid’?”

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Where are the comment police?

Heated debates are occurring in newsrooms across the state regarding when/how/if to let readers post online comments about stories. The Duluth News Tribune did some soul-searching recently about online comments that some say bordered on racist. It seems most papers, as they struggle to engage readers, feel the need to let readers have an open forum to say what they wish – usually without even having to post their real names. Then they are surprised when the discussion deteriorates quickly. We hear from clients who don’t even want to post credible online comments, because they don’t want to be in the company of inarticulate radicals. See where this is going? It’s not good. It’s time to reclaim this valuable online space.

Editors, who already have what appears to be an arbitrary process for deciding which stories merit online commenting and which don’t, should flex more muscle here. Just say no to comments that don’t add something valuable to the public discussion. Editors make subjective decisions every day about what stories to cover, which ones make the front page, and who gets to write on the editorial pages. Then why surrender so much control when it comes to online comments?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

White House Misspells President’s Name

In a news release issued yesterday, the White House stated that President “Barak” Obama signed an arms reduction treaty with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

This certainly isn’t the first time our President’s first name – spelled “Barack” – has been misspelled. At the time of his inauguration, it was estimated that at least 60 million Internet pages had the name misspelled.

But the fact that the President’s own staff missed the error before sending the release to the media highlights how important proofreading is to maintaining an organization’s reputation. Errors in writing – or the lack thereof – make a statement about professionalism and credibility.

Of course errors happen from time to time. Writers, editors and proofreaders are human, after all. But making sure that all documents are edited and proofed is a good policy for any organization to follow.

Something tells me that the White House editors and proofers will give extra-close scrutiny to the documents leaving their hands in the days ahead.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Welcome, Trader Joe's!

Trader Joe's opened in St. Paul today. New development in this economy is big news - as evidenced by the story making the Pioneer Press front-page this morning (the only non-Michael Jackson front page story in either Twin Cities daily). We were proud to work with Stuart Simek of Meridian Management and Stephani Sundry of Told Development on this project. Welcome, Trader Joe's, to the great city of St. Paul!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Location, location, location

It's not just for real estate. Location is also an important consideration for news conferences and media interviews. The New York Times illustrates how the location of the President's news conference today affected the tone of the questions and answers.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

When everyone zigs, keep on zagging

The Highland Villager is one of the most influential news sources in Saint Paul. The paper has reporters who actually go to community meetings, city council hearings, and district council events. They cover Highland Park in a way that harkens back to the days of stronger daily newspapers.

Yet you can’t get the stories on your Blackberry, Google News, or any other on-line resource. The paper has made the decision to keep its print-only focus until there is a viable business model for on-line publications. This approach ensures that people who buy ads actually know that people see the ads in the printed form. It also frustrates webophiles who want all things on-line all of the time.

So much so that someone has decided to create a blog that lists stories from the most recent issue of the Villager.

While hands continue to wring with news about the two daily papers losing readers, cutting staffs, and stretching budgets, the Highland Villager continues to be a strong, active news source. Jane McClure, a veteran reporter, continues to cover her many beats while daily newsroom counterparts continue to change.

Can the Villager stay this way? There are a few other papers in the country that are not on-line. The Villager is fortunate to cover an area that craves information and has far more than its share of resident community activists. But at a time when the STRIB is badly trying to emulate television in the form of video newscasts, here’s an example of a newspaper trying to actually be a newspaper.

Monday, June 15, 2009

How many English words are there?

If you answered one million, you are correct – according to at least one source.

The Global Language Monitor, a Web site that uses a mathematical formula to estimate word creation, last week estimated that “Web 2.0” became the millionth English word. The site also indicates that the English language accumulates 14 new words daily.

Some linguists, as well as this writer by trade, think that counting words is futile. Personally, I question whether “Web 2.0” should be added to the dictionary.

CNN talked to several experts on the subject, who raised points that even non-linguists will find interesting. And, for more on the subject The (London) Times online also ran an article over the weekend and posted the entertaining related column.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

60 years of “Nineteen Eighty-Four”

This week marks the 60th anniversary of the publication of George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four.” The novel’s impact on popular culture and politics is difficult to underestimate. In large part because of it, Orwell (Eric Arthur Blair) has become one of the 20th century’s towering literary and journalistic figures.

Orwell the novelist created and used “Newspeak” in his final major work to show us how language is manipulated in a totalitarian regime, and his work challenges us to think about how the same forces of manipulation may be used in a freer society than that of his fictional Oceania. The appendix, in which the author explains the principles of this new mode of expression, is a masterful warning about what public speech may become -
perhaps even more relevant today than it was 60 years ago.

So today, you oldthinker, be sure to put down your prolefeed for a moment to fullwise reflect on the doubleplus goodthinkfully malreported "Nineteen Eighty-Four" without a hint of facecrime before it goes down the memory hole and your own life is packed off to Room 101.

Those of us who are practitioners in public communications should be especially grateful for Orwell's dystopian tale of political, linguistic and thought control for his warning about the special responsibilities we owe to the public and our clients.

But it should be noted that Orwell the citizen and man was concerned with language's misuse well before his famous masterpiece. In a 1946 essay, "Politics and the English Language," he said,

"..the English language...becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts."
[George Orwell, Why I Write (New York: Penguin, 2005) 102]

But not content to just diagnose a problem, the veteran working journalist also suggested small ways to improve our thinking and expression:

1. Never use a metaphor, simile or other fugure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
4. Never use a passive where you can use the active.
5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

[ibidem, 119]

Good, practical, everyday advice - which we at Goff & Howard generally follow - from the man who wanted to make sure that our words, our thoughts, and ultimately our politics would not lead to oldthinking unpersons being vaporized by Big Brother in joycamps.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Georgacas contributes to Governor conversation

Now that the Twin Cities is abuzz with speculation about our next governor in light of Pawlenty's announcement, Goff & Howard President Chris Georgacas has been called on to contribute to the conversation. (Chris is one of the state's premier experts on gubernatorial politics, having served as GOP chairman during Arne Carlson's stormy but overwhelmingly successful re-election in 1994, campaign manager for Norm Coleman's 1998 race, and campaign chairman of Pawlenty's uphill-climb 2002 victory.) Chris is quoted in the AP story today, "Pawlenty's exit reshapes 2010 race for MN governor." You can also hear Chris on Minnesota Public Radio on Kerri Miller's "Midmorning" show on Friday, June 5, during the 9 a.m. hour.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Zipko chimes in on pot fight

In case you missed it, Goff & Howard's Mike Zipko was quoted in Jason Hoppin's front page Pioneer Press story on medical marijuana. Click on the link to find out what Mike had to say about it.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

It’s okay to question spell-check

As I blogged recently about the impact of texting on kids’ writing and spelling skills, my spell-check went crazy. It’s going a little crazy again right now.

The words “blog” and “blogging” are in the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary (my preferred dictionary), but only as nouns. “Blogged” is not listed at all.

“Text” has long been in the dictionary as a noun, but not in the way that I’m using it here. In the way that I’m using it, the dictionary lists “text” as a verb only and “text messaging” as a noun.

Don’t even get me started on “spell-check” in the dictionary.

I’m telling myself not to be alarmed. Language is an evolving art as much as a science. Merriam-Webster cannot possibly answer every question or keep up with every new word.

Under the “FAQ” section at merriam-webster.com, there is a question about how to suggest a word for the dictionary. The answer is:
“The selection of which words to include in the dictionary is not based on personal preferences or popularity-contest-style votes; it is based on usage. Simply put, to gain entry to the dictionary, a word must be widely used in a broad range of professionally written and edited materials over an extended period of time.”

Next year at this time, I expect my spell-check might let “blogging” and “texting” slide.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Real world, beware the text generation

I’ve been a part of several conversations lately talking about the texting craze among today’s young people. Wherever a teenager is found, a cell phone will be found attached to said teenager’s hands or located no more than a few inches away.

In light of all the abbreviating, OMGing, and GR8ing that takes place in the average text, will these teenagers ever be ready for the real world, where spelling and grammar matter? Or will “textese” seep further into business writing with every passing year?

Language purists, take note. The English language has been vandalized for centuries. Texting will most likely lead to an evolution in the English language, but so did the advent of printing and the British colonists’ population of America. Change can be good in healthy doses.

This leads me to my second point, which will hopefully bring some real relief to the purists. At least two studies – one published in the March 2009 issue of the British Journal of Developmental Psychology, and another conducted by the University of Toronto in 2006, indicate that texting does not harm texters’ language skills. In fact, texting may actually improve kids’ reading and vocabulary skills.

The theory is that exposure to and use of language – even through texting – makes children more verbally skilled. Beverly Plester, lead author of the British study, says, “We tend to get better at things that we do for fun.” Likewise, David Crystal, author of Txtng: the Gr8 Db8, says, “Before you can write abbreviated forms effectively and play with them, you need to have a sense of how the sounds of your language relate to the letters.”

I must admit that as a writer, I’m one of those people who have feared the impending demise of the English language when the text generation joins the real world. But perhaps I need to relax. The English language might be in good hands, after all.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

G&H President in Star Tribune today

Chris Georgacas of Goff & Howard was quoted in a front-page Star Tribune story this morning about Governor Pawlenty’s decision to single-handedly balance the budget.

"It was an invigorating move for his political allies and for his conservative constituencies, particularly the business community," said Chris Georgacas, a former chair of the state Republican Party. "It was understandable and consistent with where he has been in 6 1/2 years as governor."

Click here to read the entire story.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Shop around for printing price and quality

Shop around.

This is the advice we hear when it comes to finding the right car, furniture or outfit. But Goff & Howard applies the same concept to finding the right printer for our clients’ projects.

Some things to keep in mind for your next printing project:
• Keep a list of quality printers that you trust. Some printers have specialties that make each of them well suited for specific types of projects.
• Seek quotes from at least three trusted printers.
• When the quotes come in, each printer’s pricing can be quite different. For instance, Goff & Howard recently received bids ranging from $410 to $759 for a simple low-quantity project, a difference of 46%. Before selecting the winning bid, make sure to know exactly what you would get for the quoted price. Cost, quality and timing should all be considered on a project-by-project basis.
• Challenge your printer with questions such as: How much lower would the price be if we use your “house” stock of paper? (The “house” stock is often a printer’s best-priced option, because it is ordered in bulk.)

Choosing the right printer helps Goff & Howard consistently achieve a finished project that prints on time, at or under the budget, and with the quality our clients expect. Talk about an art and a science…

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Social media and the need for speed

During the 2008 Republican National Convention, Goff & Howard's client, the Saint Paul Police Department, monitored demonstrators' social media activities to prepare for averting potentially violent protests. It was a textbook case of using newly evolved public communications to help peace officers maintain order and protect property.

Apparently, not all big city police departments have caught on to the SPPD's success. On Tuesday afternoon, the Dallas Morning News Web site carried a story about the imminent arrival of the Gumball 3000 car rally in the Dallas area. The Gumball is a coast-to-coast charity drive which features lots of supercars. Many of the participants drive in such excesses of the legal speed limit that they risk having their exotic sports cars seized by the cops.

As the News reports, "Some participants are sending updates on their progress by Twitter. 'One reason people are using Twitter is the police aren't monitoring it,'" a rally spokeman said.

A legislative snap shot

As the legislative session continues, the GH Spin thought it might be fun to take a different look at what happens at the Capitol. This photo shows the crush of people trying to get a copy of the new tax bill. Goff & Howard's Brian Bergson is the second person in from the right. We thought this photo begged for a different perspective and a different caption.

After a quick contest in the office – here’s what we came up with.

Jodi Saari’s winning caption:

"This interesting creature, known as a lobbyist, is seen here in its natural habitat. Each spring they engage in a highly ritualistic paper frenzy sometimes known to include shoving, kicking, crying and groaning. Not all will survive. "

The photo is from Session Weekly, published by the Minnesota House of Representatives. Click here to see what the real caption is.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Hyperlocal and doing just fine, thank you.

For some in this new media world, the glass may not be exactly half-full, but there might be a way to put a little water in it. A community media publisher from Maine has a model – called Village Soup – that blends together print, online, and social media technology. This new model could be what others need to survive.

The traditional community newspaper publisher spent years experimenting and has now evolved into an operation with online sales that collectively generate 19% of its $2.5 million in annual ad revenues. This is something that appears to be a first in the print media world.

At the core of the success is the buzzword “hyper-local.” It focuses on a very specific area where the media company can offer something of value to its readers. Think Highland Villager vs. the Star Tribune’s national news coverage. For some in the news media, this is a concept beneath many reporters and editors who would rather focus on Washington, D.C., Europe, and Asia.

But for Village Soup, hyper-local is a way to serve customers, connect with the community – and make money. Village Soup has a branded Web site and separately branded weekly papers for each of four communities. Each city also has a section on the Village Soup site.

The Web site has content from reporters, but two-thirds of the Village Soup sites’ front pages are filled with citizen and business posts. New revenue comes from sponsored postings that businesses can buy. The posts, which run right next to the ordinary editorial content, are not controlled by Village Soup. It’s a blend of new, old, and social media.

This may not be the solution, but is an example of an idea that is actually working at a time when so many others clearly are not.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A mailing is only as good as your list

When did you last update your organization’s e-mail and direct mail lists?

If it was more than a year ago, expect the lists to be as much as 20% inaccurate. Why would there have been so many changes? According to the United States Postal Service:
• 19.3% of all businesses move each year
• 13.7% of Americans move each year
• 1.8 million new mailing addresses are added annually

With ongoing maintenance, your lists will stay in such good shape that you can be ready for a mailing at a moment’s notice. Accuracy will also save on mailing costs, reduce waste, and greatly boost your mailing’s chance of effectiveness.

While e-mail blasts avoid the expenses of mailing, an updated e-mail list is critical to your effectiveness. As you meet people and collect business cards, make sure they don’t only occupy a growing pile on your desk. These cards are a critical way to keep your organization’s lists up to date.

So, while list updates may not be your favorite task, they are critical for making sure your mailings and e-mail blasts accomplish your intended goals.

Statistics source: United States Postal Service, April 2008 Mail Systems Management Association IMB Forum.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The hottest new profession?

The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday on the growing trend of professional blogging – citing that there are now more paid bloggers than there are firefighters or computer programmers in America.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Social media viruses – and how to fight them

The Internet has made it possible for anyone to share thoughts, ideas and opinions with the entire world. But with this freedom to share information comes the potential for these thoughts and ideas to significantly damage individuals’ and companies’ reputations.

Case in point: Two employees from an individually owned Domino’s store shot and shared a video online that showed them tampering with customers’ food (to put it mildly). The video was supposedly a prank, but instead it created a social media frenzy.

Domino’s corporate headquarters immediately sprang into action, working to remove the video wherever possible and respond to the situation – including answering inquiries from bloggers and traditional media and reassuring its customers that its food is safe. Domino’s reaction was strategic and fast, and may have minimized the damage from the viral video.

To learn more about how Domino's responded to this crisis - click here.

To learn more about what happened to the people who created the video and the company's response - click here.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Do you get Internesia?

In keeping up with the latest style guide additions for The Gregg Reference Manual – Goff & Howard’s main go-to for style questions – we came across a glossary of computer terms.

Among the 25 pages of terms were entries like blog (technically called Web log), multimedia, browser, and spam that most computer users are familiar with. Then there were the occasional few that enlightened us:

Dead-tree edition. The paper version of a publication available online.
Dot-bomb. A dot-com that fails to stay in business is referred to as a dot-bomb. Internet surfers who spend a lot of time in the .com domain are sometimes referred to as dot communists.
Internesia. Forgetting where one obtained a piece of information on the Internet.
Kluge (pronounced klooj). An expedient (but often inelegant) way to solve a problem when time is of the essence.
Mouse elbow. A repetitive strain injury (similar to tennis elbow) that is caused by repeatedly using a mouse.
Mouse potato. A person who sits glued to a computer screen.
Netiquette. A set of guidelines for formatting and composing e-mail messages.
Netizen. A “citizen” of the Net; an active participant in the Internet community.
Shouting. The use of all caps in e-mail. This practice is considered a violation of netiquette and is actively discouraged.
Word of mouse. Gossip spread by e-mail.

All definitions courtesy of William A. Sabin, The Gregg Reference Manual, “Glossary of Computer Terms,” 10th Edition, McGraw-Hill, 2008, http://www.mhhe.com/business/buscom/gregg/glossary.htm.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Got stuff? Give stuff.

Here’s a picture of the latest Goff & Howard “stuff” going to good use. Just like at home, sometimes we start to collect things we don’t need – like extra office furniture and books – and our employees sometimes have work-related clothing that they’d like to go to someone who needs it.

We have been fortunate to have a relationship with Community Action Partnership (CAP) of Anoka and Rasmey County. As Goff & Howard’s Patty Dunn, who is also a founding member of CAP’s new community advisory board, puts it – we like how they, “match up needs with haves.”

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Are e-mail and the Internet replacing brochures and newsletters?

In an age of every imaginable communication flowing across the Internet or your mobile phone, it’s hard not to question if this is the beginning of the end for printed materials like brochures and newsletters.

But while there are more choices today than ever before, we believe that print communications are alive and well.

Take, for instance, the issue of portability. Sure, you can hypothetically read an e-newsletter on your BlackBerry. But it is easier said than done. The experience of reading a printed piece is oftentimes more meaningful and more convenient than reading an electronic version. Printed pieces can also be distributed to many people at a meeting in any location or read easily from the passenger seat of a car or airliner.

Printed pieces can also achieve a more professional, credible impression simply by using a high-quality paper or special cuts, folds or shapes.

In general, a combination of print and electronic communications have a place in most campaigns. Striking the right balance will enable you to capture the best of both worlds.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Social media in action as Fargo-Moorhead battles Mother Nature

We spend a lot of time sharing information about the rise of social media. Today, as people in the Fargo-Moorhead area struggle to create sandbag barriers to hold back the rising Red River, the situation provides some real-world examples of social media’s impact and why it is important.

Not that long ago, the mainstream media would have been people’s source for information about the rising water and how to help. But over the past few days, people have used the power of social networking to provide information, recruit volunteers, and share thoughts and concerns.

For instance, local residents have created the Fargo-Moorhead Flood Volunteer Network on Facebook to help recruit volunteer sandbaggers. Thousands of people have signed up for the network, making it a key way to organize volunteers.

Fargo-Moorhead residents, the media, government workers, and others with a connection to the area are also using Twitter to send and receive updates.

And for people who want to follow the river levels, there are new ways like this site to track the latest forecasts via weather services.

As preparations for the Red River crest continue, our thoughts and prayers are with the people in the Fargo-Moorhead area.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Big success for small town papers? Don’t be so sure.

It is a recently-held belief that small town newspapers are faring far better than the big dailies right now. Minnpost recently ran an anecdotal story about two small town newspapers that appeared to confirm that trend. We checked in with the Mille Lacs Messenger’s editor to see if his paper’s experience has been consistent. What he said surprised us, and confirmed that in today’s media world, nothing is certain. Oh, and by the way, the irony of a public relations person quoting a newspaper person is not lost on us.

Here’s what Brett Larson, editor of the Mille Lacs Messenger, had to say:

"After reading the story, I’d say you can’t generalize that just because a few towns have thriving newspapers, and sometimes more than one, everything is rosy in small-town America.

"Our readership is strong, but our ad revenue - and as a result - our number of pages, is down significantly over the last six months. We assume this reflects the economy and is not permanent, but frankly, we’re not sure. Will everyone come back when the economy turns around, or will they go elsewhere for advertising (web, radio, etc.)?

"We don’t know yet if what we’re seeing with big city papers will happen in small towns, but if you assume it won’t, you have your head in the sand, and if the change does come, you’ll be left behind.

"The obvious difference between us and the big guys is that the small-town paper is often the only source for local news, but this is changing and will continue to change. News Web sites are springing up in small towns around the country and attempting to compete with newspapers for ad revenue.

"We’re currently trying to make sure our Web site remains head and shoulders above the competition. Right now, we have the people and the infrastructure to cover local news in a far more comprehensive way than the newcomers."

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A sad sign of the times

It’s said a picture is worth a thousand words. This picture might be worth a bit more.

A photo from a San Francisco storage yard full of discarded newspaper racks left in the digital dust.

For more photos click here: http://tinyurl.com/c2tw4b

Monday, March 16, 2009

Newspapers and Natural Selection?

Because last month marked the bicentenary of Charles Darwin’s birth, it was perhaps inevitable that the theory of evolution would provide the latest analogy to explain the great mass media shake-up which we are experiencing. Popular science writer Steven Berlin Johnson did just that in an incisive speech last Friday.

Breitbart.com ran a story on his comments, headlined "Journalism evolving, not dying."

Monday, March 9, 2009

STRIB is #2 in the “Dead Pool”

At the beginning of each year some people develop a list of 10 celebrities who could potentially pass away during that year.

It’s called the “dead pool” and takes morbid cynicism to a place where people bet money.

This practice has now entered a new realm – the struggling world of metropolitan newspapers.

Leave it to one struggling form of printed communication (news magazines) to create a list of endangered companies that produce another type of printed communication (newspapers). Time Magazine has created what could be considered a newspaper “dead pool.” It lists what it considers to be the 10 major daily papers that are most likely to fold or shut down their print operations and only publish online. The Star Tribune comes in at #2. The Philadelphia Daily News tops the list that includes some of what used to be powerhouse newspapers across the country.

Solutions to the crisis newspapers face are complicated. Putting together a list of those that may not make it is somewhat easier.

The GH Spin wonders how long it will take one of these newspapers to come up with a list of 10 magazines that will cease printing and become an online-only operation.


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A case of chicken pox PR

Last night, stories about an outbreak of chicken pox at my son’s school in Eagan ran on FOX news and in the Star Tribune. Was I alarmed? Not at all.

I’ve heard about this several times already over the past few weeks, not from the media, but straight from the school. I’ve received multiple e-mails from the principal, seen the signs posted on the doors at the school, and received a letter that contained recommendations from the Department of Health. I knew what needed to be done to protect my family (ensure that my son has had two doses of the vaccine). And, before the stories ran in the media, I knew they were coming . . . again, because of an e-mail from the principal.

News stories on negative topics don’t have to translate into a disaster if the topics are handled appropriately with your key audiences and the media. Kudos to Pinewood Community School for a “case of chicken pox PR” done right.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Never too old to intern

Goff & Howard Senior Writer Tricia Nissen recently proved the point that many of the best opportunities are the ones we create ourselves. After not finding the right fit for a professional development experience from the standard options (conferences, workshops, service learning projects, etc.), she designed an advanced internship with a daily newspaper for a week in February.

Tricia’s experience is shared in the column, “You’re Never Too Old to Intern,” in the Valley City Times Record.

Monday, March 2, 2009

A “niching” question for NewsBreak

With great Web-based fanfare, the Star Tribune on Monday launched a Web cast of news, weather and sports called NewsBreak. It’s billed as “Straight from the source, it’s your news now.” Yet after watching the first edition, it appears NewsBreak may already be strategically obsolete at a time when the Star Tribune can least afford to miss the mark.

There is more information streaming at us every day, and we have more control over the sources we can connect with and value. With this in mind, media companies, like any other business, need to understand more so than ever who their audience is, what value they bring to their customers, and where they fit into the marketplace.

NewsBreak seems to be reaching out to an audience it doesn’t understand. The result is something that may be of little value to the audience in a marketplace already filled with media companies who do a better job producing video for the Web because they have been producing television for newscasts for decades.

It’s hard to see how NewsBreak fills a need in the marketplace. The Star Tribune had a niche. It covered news in our market with depth and comprehension beyond what could be found at 5, 6, and 10.

Now, what niche is the Star Tribune trying to fill? Today’s debut of NewsBreak left us wondering.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Good television and great media strategy

Tuesday was a significant day for the Obama administration’s effort to get its message out. Obama’s team achieved both “quantity” and “quality” in audience impact.


To reach a quantitatively significant audience the President took advantage of a prime time television audience and the millions of people who come with it to give his first address to a joint session of Congress. The speech was well received and has given the media and policy wonks plenty to analyze.


Earlier in the day before a significantly smaller audience yet one that is of significant “quality,” the Obama administration strategically brought the media into the White House communications department. MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough got an informal White House tour from White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. Gibbs showed off his office, the staff that works with him, and even showed the hosts where he keeps the flak jacket that is passed down from one press secretary to another.

“Morning Joe’s” audience is a mere fraction of a prime time network broadcast yet the show is popular with audiences in Washington, D.C., and New York City. Yet allowing a live news-focused show into the inner sanctum of the communications department sends a clear message that this White House intends to have a different and more open relationship with the media.

During the election cycle, the Obama campaign was effective in strategically getting its message out. When you combine this with the impact of the prime time speech and the “Morning Joe” appearance, it’s clear that the team has brought the same approach to the White House.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Abbreviations – period or no period?

With complex and often contradictory rules, the English language can confound even the most careful practitioners.

One recent topic discussed in the writers’ corner at Goff & Howard was abbreviations. When are periods used, and when are they not?

Our most frequently used style guide, The Gregg Reference Manual, tells us that it depends on the situation. (Imagine that…)

Here are a few examples that we come across regularly:
• For the most part, uppercased abbreviations do not require periods. Examples include IRS, VIP, CEO, NFL, URL and CST. Favorite exceptions include academic degrees, like M.D. and B.S. And, according to at least one style guide (United States Government Printing Office Style Manual), CST should be c.s.t. We defer to The Gregg Reference Manual unless the situation dictates otherwise.
• Most lowercased abbreviations require periods. Examples include a.m., p.m., i.e. (that is to say), and e.g. (for example).
• When more than one letter is included per word in an abbreviation, use periods – Ph.D. and Lt. Col., for example.

Goff & Howard takes pride in getting the answers right on abbreviations and all kinds of other confounding grammar and usage questions. Then, on the most difficult occasions, The Gregg Reference Manual throws us a bone, telling us it’s okay to sometimes “manipulate the principles of style with intelligence and taste.*”

* William A. Sabin, The Gregg Reference Manual, Ninth Edition, Glencoe McGraw-Hill, New York, 2001, p. v.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

New measure of press conference success

How many news cameras does it take to claim a news conference a success?

In the past, four cameras (channels 4, 5, 9 and 11) was a grand slam. But today, one camera is the new gold standard. That is, if you get the golden video-pooler camera. . .

MinnPost reports in the story, “Happy together: TV newsrooms begin regular video-pooling.”

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Newspapers not yet extinct

It’s widely held that the format of news content and advertisements printed on thin paper, delivered to our homes or offices, and lying around the local greasy spoon or barber shop – something which used to carry the dignified name “newspaper” – is like a dinosaur near the end of the Cretaceous Period. We’re just waiting for the massive asteroid to hit News Media Earth.

Well, old fashioned newspapers aren’t quite dead yet. For an interesting example, see this post on the Cato Institute’s blog on hardcopy’s superior ability (compared to online content) to generate web-based reader responses:


Thursday, February 5, 2009

Failed newspaper biz model

Most of us lament the slow death of traditional print journalism. Here’s an interesting piece by Walter Isaacson, former managing editor of Time magazine and chief executive officer of CNN, on the failed newspaper business model in the Internet Age and how it might be fixed.


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Facebook: not just for kids

At first, I thought Facebook was just for the loners hacking away on computers in their mothers’ basements. Then, an old friend who lives a thousand miles away lured me to sign up just so I could see the photos of her kids she posted. I signed up . . .became quickly overwhelmed . . . and swiftly deactiviated my account. Weeks later . . .I tiptoed back and joined again. And I haven’t looked back since. At first it was simply a photos swap with old friends . . .but now it’s more than that; it’s also a business tool. But, if you are considering joining all the cool kids on FB, be sure you know how to use it. While you can set some pretty tight privacy settings, it is also pretty easy for many to call up your profile picture. Or, for friends to “tag” you in a photo album . . .and the next thing you know you’re sitting across the meeting table with someone who just called up a picture of you at a party you’d rather forget. (Just ask Jon Favreau, http://voices.washingtonpost.com/44/2008/12/04/one_more_question.html)

So . . .give it a shot. But proceed with caution . . .and discretion.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Easy Twitter explanation

Download “Rockin’ Robin” to your ipod and read Star Tribune columnist James Lileks’ easy-to-read explanation of Twitter. We love how Lileks explains the micro-blogging phenomenon in plain English and has a local example of Mayor Rybak’s use of the service. Here’s the link: http://tinyurl.com/d9r9fr.

Ready to try it? Goff & Howard is on Twitter. Follow us at http://twitter.com/GoffHoward.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Where’s the Biz News?

It’s old news that newspapers and media companies are struggling to deal with a changing economy. But we’re now seeing the impact.

One key result, as pointed out in the Talking Biz News blog http://tinyurl.com/c8ntwg: Yahoo News and Google News will find fewer business stories to find:

  • At least 44 daily newspapers have cut their stand-alone business sections during the week.
  • At least 16 daily newspapers have eliminated their stand-alone Sunday or Monday business sections.
  • At least another 14 business media outlets have cut their staffs covering business and economics news.

What has left newsrooms around the country is years of experience covering business and economic issues. While blogs like this are interesting to read, they don’t come close to providing the type and depth of coverage from people who have years of experience digging up news.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Blogs. Why should we care?

In a brainstorm session to name the Goff & Howard blog, a suggestion was the “blah, blah blog.” The name didn’t get picked (catchy as it is), but it shows a common perception of blogs . . . that they are just columns of rambling information.

It’s tempting to dismiss blogs, but as business people, we can no longer avoid them. One of the latest blog studies from technorati http://tinyurl.com/4u4fn5 helps prove why.

Here are the highlights . . .

Blogging is not a fad – it’s here to stay.
- In August of 2008, blogs generated 77.7 million unique visitors in the U.S., compared with 41 million for Facebook (and we thought Facebook was huge)
- 59% of bloggers have been blogging for more than two years

While politics, music, and personal interest clearly drive a lot of posts, bloggers are also a resource for corporate marketing:
- One-third of bloggers have been approached to be brand advocates
- Four in five bloggers post brand or product reviews, with 37% posting them frequently
- 90% of bloggers say they post about the brands, music, movies and books that they love (or hate)

And, don’t believe the stereotype of the blogger being someone holed up at home on a basement computer . . .
- Three out of four U.S. bloggers are college graduates
- 42% have attended graduate school
- 44% are parents
- Two-thirds are male
- 50% are 18-34

Moral of the statistics: We can’t avoid or ignore blogs, even though spell check seems to think “blogs” do not yet exist . . . (it’s true, try it).

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Introducing The GH Spin

To our fellow public relations practitioners, please do not take offense at the name of our new blog “The GH Spin.” The name, of course, is in jest. This blog is about our take, “our spin” if you will, on the news and events of the day that we find most interesting.

In this blog, you’ll see the kind of information we share on a regular basis at Goff & Howard – the latest trends in the ever-changing media, the latest social media crazes, updates and insights from our state Capitol, and more.

It’s the type of information that makes us pause during the day and say, “Did you see or hear that? That was interesting.” We hope you agree. And, if you do, and would like to follow our blog you can use Twitter, an RSS feed, or simply sign-up for email updates.

Welcome to the GH Spin!