December 08, 2009

Getting Past Your Worst P.R. Nightmare

Remember Michael Richards' blow-up at a comedy club several years ago when he called out black hecklers using racist slurs? It was captured on a cell phone camera and seriously hurt his reputation despite an unusual apology that came several days later. He retired from stand-up and had been out of the public eye until the recent season of Curb Your Enthusiasm that centered on a Seinfeld reunion show.

Larry David said Richards "is like a new man. He really went through something (with that incident). He used to be very angry and bitter. He's completely different now. You can see it, and he can feel it. I'm very happy for him."

To prove it, Richards bravely parodied the incident on Curb:

A comment on the Extra web piece about this show:
That Michael Richards club blowup turned me off to him (Kramer was my fav Seinfeld cast member) and you know what? This past episode had me roaring with laughter both when he answered the door and his last scene. The show addressed it head on rather than ignored it, he admitted his mistake, and I’m more mellowed towards him now. For those who are protesting the show, I’m also Black and have a more forgiving viewpoint.

December 03, 2009

Tiger's Tale

I will admit to being one of the many who have been curious about Tiger Woods' personal situation and what really went on around the recent accident; whether his wife was really chasing after him with that golf club rather than trying to rescue him. Nonetheless, I think the statement below, placed on his web site yesterday, is eloquent.

While it will not stop the speculation nor keep reporters from trying to ask him about the incident, perhaps it should. Without specificity, he indicates he did something/some things that were wrong and implies this was related to the accident. The language leads one to believe he had an affair, and the reason for being even this explicit probably has to do with revelations in US Magazine (I've always thought that name is strange, it's about THEM, not US). I expect he'll have nothing more to say on this subject unless forced to in a court of law (as Rachel Uchitel may take legal action against the National Enquirer and/or its source).

I do think it's time for the p.r. pundits to shut up. They have been all over television, mostly claiming that Woods has reacted poorly to the event from a p.r. point of view. They have been critical of his decision not to talk to the police, but he was under no obligation to, and the opportunity for his police interview to be leaked was great. While his first statement could have come a bit sooner, I think he has handled it as well as he can. Yes, maintaining his position as a great athlete and effective endorser is important, but he is a person who has had to deal with the emotional and family implications of the event along with his injuries.

The real issue for his public is that it has been clear since his return to the game that something was amiss. There have been numerous occasions of bad behavior on the course. Whether related to his personal situation or athletic frustrations, if being admired and being paid as an endorser are important to him, he needs to find a resolution to this problem.

I have let my family down and I regret those transgressions with all of my heart. I have not been true to my values and the behavior my family deserves. I am not without faults and I am far short of perfect. I am dealing with my behavior and personal failings behind closed doors with my family. Those feelings should be shared by us alone.

Although I am a well-known person and have made my career as a professional athlete, I have been dismayed to realize the full extent of what tabloid scrutiny really means. For the last week, my family and I have been hounded to expose intimate details of our personal lives. The stories in particular that physical violence played any role in the car accident were utterly false and malicious. Elin has always done more to support our family and shown more grace than anyone could possibly expect.

But no matter how intense curiosity about public figures can be, there is an important and deep principle at stake which is the right to some simple, human measure of privacy. I realize there are some who don't share my view on that. But for me, the virtue of privacy is one that must be protected in matters that are intimate and within one's own family. Personal sins should not require press releases and problems within a family shouldn't have to mean public confessions.

Whatever regrets I have about letting my family down have been shared with and felt by us alone. I have given this a lot of reflection and thought and I believe that there is a point at which I must stick to that principle even though it's difficult.

I will strive to be a better person and the husband and father that my family deserves. For all of those who have supported me over the years, I offer my profound apology.

Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post has a very different view that's worth reading.

Christine Brennan in USA Today also would not agree with me as her thoughtful piece demonstrates.

December 01, 2009

Manufacturers Selling Direct

It's been a tradition that manufacturers of products sold through the retail channel do not sell direct to consumers. Since the advent of the internet, this has changed. While many companies have not chosen to sell direct, it is past the point where the practice is controversial or likely to result in retailers refusing to carry the product as once was common.

Still, there are issues. Is it OK for the manufacturer to offer lower prices or other incentives not available to retailers? What if the product is one that is typically sold at less than suggested retail price - should the manufacturer offer it at "street price."

Since I entered publishing in 1980, I have always sold direct to consumers, but been reluctant to offer consumer incentives that would seem unfair to my dealers.

It's one thing to sell direct, but another as to how and where you promote your direct channel. A curious case appears today where Penguin Books is promoting their online store on Shelf Awareness, an email newsletter sent to people in the publishing trade (ad below).

You might say that individuals at other publishing houses, agents and publicists are good prospects for a well-loved publisher such as Penguin. And "reader/booklover" is an accepted category of subscribers, so there are definitely consumers reading the newsletter. But one of the main readerships -- the one to whom most ads on Shelf Awareness are aimed -- is booksellers. It seems to me dangerous to rub your direct sales effort in the face of your primary distribution channel, especially since Penguin is offering gift packs and personalized editions that likely are not available to retailers (though make absolute sense in a web store) and promoting staff recommendations, just as a book store does.