2011 was an important year in professional communications in several ways. We saw the field of public relations continues to evolve with technology. Once again, it was proven that the lessons of history will be repeated by those who refuse to learn them. And perhaps most of all, the year saw the strongest evidence of how closely brand ID can be tied to a company leader.
So let’s take a quick look back at a few noteworthy stories in professional communications.
5. Chris Hoffman’s resignation as spokesman for the New Haven Public School System. Hoffman seemed an ideal fit for this job. A former New Haven Register reporter and press secretary to Dick Blumenthal during his tenure as state Attorney General, he brought outstanding experience when he took the job in early 2011. In mid-December, a reporter from the New Haven Independent newspaper arrived for an interview with a school principal and Hoffman informed her he would be joining them, which did not sit well with the scribe. Unfortunately, he pulled the classic hand-over-the-camera maneuver that never, ever looks good. This is especially true in the modern era, where the results wind up on the Internet for all to see. In addition, his on-camera handling of her questions on the definition of transparency in the school system was bafflingly poor for someone of Hoffman’s background. Nevertheless, his quick resignation and the acceptance of it seem a knee-jerk reaction on someone’s part, as he was entitled to another chance to prove himself in such situations given his lengthy success in the PR industry.
4. U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner’s use of Twitter and Email to send explicit photos of himself. This served as a simple reminder of how quickly social media spreads…and fuels a controversy. Social media is no longer a ‘new’ technology but it does continue to evolve in its ability to bring down public figures who fail to think about the implications of sending a simple message. For someone to reach the high office that Weiner did but lack the understanding how carefully all his communications are scrutinized remains difficult to comprehend.
3. News of the World phone hacking scandal. The high profile British tabloid newspaper has allegedly hacked voice-mail and cell phone accounts of politicians, celebrities and even average citizens in developing stories. The scandal finished the newspaper, which operated in the U.K since 1843. Stooping to any level to supply product under the guise that public has a right to know juicy things about their celebrities, even if it means breaking privacy laws, was apparently a longtime practice at the NOTW.
2. Netflix apology for doubling its fees and splitting the company into two separate divisions. Yes, doubling fees is never going to be a popular move but the formal, online explanation of why it was taking place was one of the worst ever from a Fortune 500 company. It included the line ‘It is possible we are moving too fast — it is hard to say.’
Didn’t think so.
1. Steve Jobs, in the final months of his life, managed to lead yet another unveiling of an Apple product, the iPad 2. It was well-known that the company co-founder was very sick, yet his appearance and presentation were as identifiable as the Apple logo. Therefore, the temptation to take to the podium for a new product proved too difficult to resist and this final public appearance was another gem. Jobs was an innovator and not only with computer technology. As Public Relations events go, his presentations of the latest Apple product earned a place in history. Somewhere, and likely before too long, there will be other company leaders who will try to replicate this kind of publicity for their latest gadgets. Jobs will be an extremely tough act to follow in this realm.
Wishing everyone a Happy New Year and the best for 2012!