SXSW: A Time for Music, Parties, and Free Beer!

It’s about that time of year again. When Central Texas is just beginning to thaw from it’s relatively mild weather, the capital city welcomes musicians, promoters, label representatives, and fans to Spring Break – Austin style. Austin will soon be infested with L.A. hipsters and New York trendsetters that come to our fair city to enjoy the weather, music, and parties that SXSW has to offer. Many people don’t understand the horror and magic that comes along with SXSW week. Savvy publicists already understand the extraordinary opportunities that SXSW affords their clients, so students on the verge of landing their first PR job should be made aware of what exactly SXSW is and how to take advantage.

The third week of March is a strange time in Austin, TX. The Super Bowl of music festivals descends on the city, and analogous to the Super Bowl, marketing people take notice. For those of you who normally go to Cabo, Cozumel, or wherever to hopefully be on MTV’s Spring Break coverage, SXSW can be very confusing. It’s not like the festivals you go to (Austin City Limits, Bonnaroo, Coachella, etc.) usually. SXSW takes over the entire city and there are myriad opportunities for promotion and direct marketing.

If you look at the list of shows during the week, you’ll notice that most of the “official” showcases occur downtown. Most think that you need a wristband (which costs way too much), but you really just need a map. There are shows dotted around the city that are FREE! That’s right, free. You know why? Because companies like Red Bull pay top dollar to “present” shows for free to the public. It’s a giant interactive commercial where you can drink all the Red Bull you’re stamina can handle. Everything they spend is seen as a marketing expense and it does quite a job. You’re able to target a specific audience and bring them entertainment while branding your image. That’s why Rachel Ray, and Perez Hilton host shows. They are able to take advantage of this festival, and if you want your client to be hip and fun, while widening their audience.

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Is Tiger Out of the Woods?

Today was a monumental day in the life of Eldrick Tont Woods. The golf champion finally addressed his wrongdoings to the public and it was quite a spectacle. Media were not allowed to ask any questions, they just had to sit quietly and transcribe the event. 

The press conference was masterfully planned and organized by Tiger’s publicists. There was little information to attain prior to the conference and there wasn’t much time to prepare. It was announced only two days ago and that left reporters and talking heads only hours to prepare for the public apology. 

Let’s analyze how Tiger handled the apology. I thought he did a wonderful job of addressing the public’s concerns head on and not shying away from accepting the blame. He didn’t blame his problems on his sex addiction or any other excuse. He acknowledged that he was unfaithful and that he cheated on his wife. He looked confident and sincere as he was delivering his message and I’m sure his publicist knew what the public was thirsting for. 

It remains to be seen the backlash over Tiger’s controlling nature, in regards to his press conference. I’m sure media members were upset that they were not given the opportunity to ask questions and develop a story. However, Tiger is in another stratosphere of celebrity. He can afford to handle the press conference the way he sees fit and I think he’s handling the situation correctly. I think he made a good decision to not address the situation for so long. He was able to get his story together and apologize on his terms. Furthermore, had he addressed the situation from the beginning, he would’ve had to address the women he slept with, instead of his problem.

Good luck to Tiger, he’s the world’s greatest athlete. Hopefully he’ll learn from this situation, and hopefully the PR world will learn from this crisis.

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The Buzz about Google

I’ll be the first to admit: I’m always behind the curve when it comes to technology. This blog is the first blog I’ve ever had. I never had a livejournal in High School, unlike so many of my peers. My best friend created my Facebook and Myspace accounts (I didn’t see the point, frankly). I don’t have a smart phone, I’m not sure I would know how to operate one. 

I’ve lived my whole life a year behind the trendsetters and mavens that are the first to “tweet” or “tag”. However, this week I’m changing my ways … Google has released their much anticipated take on social networking with their new venture Google Buzz. Google Buzz is sort of a seamless marriage of key concepts from Twitter and Facebook put together by Google’s user-friendly interface. Google Buzz works through your Gmail account and is a convenient way to build a network of friends straight from your e-mail contact list.

Our mission, however, in this blog, is not to inform people of new products or services, or laud their achievements. The mission of An Open Discussion is to look at situations from a Public Relations viewpoint. Since social networking is so important to the modern framework and structure of Public Relations, I think it’s important for us to figure out how best to utilize Buzz. 

One way Buzz is useful to Publicists is it’s ability to connect you with work associates. Presumably, the people you e-mail most (especially from a work e-mail) are colleagues, and Google Buzz allows users to connect in an informal way with these contacts. I’ve been “following” a few of my work associates and they’ve already begun using Buzz as a way to promote themselves and their events. Additionally, Google Buzz will make mobile social networking a cinch and it features myriad ways to stay connected with your contacts. 

I’ve decided that I’m going to be known as the “Buzz” guy. This will be the first time in my life that I’m on the cutting edge of a new and exciting social networking tool and I’m excited to see what it holds.

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Jimmy Fallon Goes Back to School

photo credit: yuppiedanceparty

As I update this blog more and more I feel that my readers will get a better sense of me as a person. My humor, my pet peeves, and my interests. One interesting thing about me is that I host a radio show for the University of Texas’ student-run radio station, KVRX.

Cool, huh? Yeah, it really is. One perk of being at KVRX is that it allows me to meet or talk to creative and talented people. This week on my show, I was fortunate enough to conduct a phone interview with comedian/actor/late-night host Jimmy Fallon.

First off, I don’t have the recording yet. I’ll put it up on An Open Discussion this weekend, probably this Sunday. The question everyone has been asking me is, “Why did Jimmy Fallon do an interview for a college radio show?” Valid question. It looks strange from afar, but when you investigate why, the idea becomes clearer.

photo credit: scifiwire.com

Anyone who has watched “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” understands that NBC is targeting the 18-24 crowd, and they are coming after them strong. Just take a look at Jimmy’s set pictured above. He’s dressed as a hip, young male. He has an Apple Macbook on his desk (a favorite for college-aged kids). He somehow convinced The Roots to be the house band, and he regularly video chats with guests. This is certainly not the type of show that my Grandfather is going to identify with. Amidst slumping ratings and programming realignment, NBC has dedicated a block of programming to young viewers because that’s who advertisers want.

Back to my interview with Jimmy. I asked his publicist if there was something he was promoting, because the publicist asked us (KVRX) to do the interview. KVRX wasn’t the only ones to get Jimmy for an interview that day. He did several college radio interviews all with the goal of casting his net as wide as possible; and hopefully catching some college-aged viewers.

I think it’s a smart move and at the very least, he has one fan in Austin, TX.

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Ipad: How it was introduced.

Hello everyone, thanks for stopping by …  a potentially ground-breaking event was held in San Francisco, CA Wednesday morning as Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduced the world to their latest invention. The event had been hyped for quite sometime and the jury is still out on whether or not Apple delivered. There is much I don’t understand about this new tablet, but that’s not what I’m here for …

. Photo credit: dailymail.co.uk

For today’s entry, I want to examine how effective Steve Jobs and co. were at unveiling their newest creation: the Ipad. What could Apple have done differently? Did they build up too much hype for their product? What about the name, was that a poor choice? How about the presentation? Did Jobs seem smug and detached as per usual?

 Photo credit: babble.com

Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs stepped on the stage in his traditional black long-sleeve shirt and blue jeans. There was excitement in the air as the audience awaited the anticipated release of Apple’s new tablet. As with most things Apple, the event was professionally decorated and had the look and feel of a mac-lovers paradise.

 Photo credit: washingtonpost.com

I feel that a mistake made by the Apple decision makers was their inability to showcase the features of the Ipad that make it different from an Iphone or a Macbook. It’s not as if Steve Jobs rushed to put this product together. Most people I have talked to still don’t understand what they would do with the tablet. Apple failed to highlight many of the features that people wanted: faster processor, user-friendly web browsing, e-book capability. As an Apple enthusiast, I didn’t feel like I was explained thoroughly what I could actually do with this machine and why I would spend a small fortune (at least for a college student) on this product. Jobs should’ve been more excited about the options this gives us for the future (particularly for media). That not only would’ve gotten a rise out of traditional media mediums, but it would’ve given a concrete reason for a person to purchase this unfortunately named product.

Till next time …

-Michael

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Apple’s Newest Revolution

Tomorrow on An Open Discussion, I will discuss Apple’s latest creation, and what it could mean for the future of the industry. We’ll examine the presentation and dissemination of information about the new product , and discuss Apple’s strategy. The “creation” is widely expected to be a new tablet that can and will rival Amazon’s Kindle. Apple’s latest invention is supposed to be one of Steve Jobs’ greatest achievements to date, and the world anxiously awaits.

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